A Benue State High Court has dismissed a defamation case filed against the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and a Nigerian human rights activist, Sesugh Akume.
The activist had accused the governor of misappropriating local government funds, an allegation he claimed reduced him in the eyes of right-thinking people.
In the delivery of judgment on Tuesday, Justice AI Ityonyiman held that no libelous words were established by the plaintiff (Dr Samuel Ortom) and no reasonable cause of action was found. He subsequently dismissed the matter.
“It would be recalled that I had dragged the governor of Benue and other parties to court—in one of numerous local government autonomy public interest suits—seeking an interpretation of a provision of the Benue Local Government Law 2007 which empowers the governor (whoever he/she is) to spend/reallocate monthly Federal Account Allocations Committee (FAAC) grants to the local governments through the State Local Government Joint Account (SLGJA) at will (according to the rule of man) and asking the court to declare it unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void. I also made public commentary on the lawsuit which was widely reported in the media,” Akume said while reacting to the judgment.
“Governor Ortom in his own matter with suit number MHC/326/2021 alleged that I had, indeed, stated that he makes deductions from local government funds in the Joint Account at will, and thereby besmirched his good name and standing in society as an upright man who cannot temper with local government funds. He also joined Mr Sowore, as the publisher of one of the news media that reported my statement.
“The court found his allegations flimsy. The plaintiff is at liberty to appeal the judgment. We shall be waiting. Much gratitude is here expressed to my attorney, the indefatigable of learned counsel, Moses Lubem Ukpo, Esq., for his steadfastness, unmatched legal industry, and firm belief in the course of justice.”