Court reserves judgement on ex-Minister, Onyeama's N500m libel suit - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Court reserves judgement on ex-Minister, Onyeama's N500m libel suit

A Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) High Court sitting at Zuba, has reserved judgement on a N500million libel case that a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, institute against a career Ambassador in the Ministry, Lillian Onoh.

Onyeama alleged that the defendant, who is a sister to his former wife, defamed him in series of memos she sent to former  President Muhammadu Buhari, while he was in office as a Minister.

He is praying the court to award the money to him as punitive damages against the Ambassador and two other defendants in the matter-  Akelicious Media Company and Newswire Law & Event Magazine - for their defamatory publications against him. 

However, in a counter move, the 1st defendant, Ms.Onoh, filed a counterclaim against the former Minister, demanding a N2billion compensation for what she described as "emotional trauma" she suffered as a result of Onyeama's suit against her.

According to Ambassador Onoh, a former Nigerian ambassador to Namibia and Haiti, the former Minister lodged the "malicious suit" as part of his "40-year-vendetta to avenge his humiliation of being divorced by her sister due to unhinged psychiatric behaviour."

More so, Ambassador Onoh alleged large-scale stealing by staff members of the foreign service of funds belonging to Nigerian embassies and high commissions.

While adopting his final written address, counsel to the ex-Minister, Mr. Agada Elachi, SAN, urged the court to both Ms. Onoh and the other defendants to apologise to his client and also retract the defamatory publications.

He equally applied for an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the defendant from further uttering, writing or publishing defamatory words against his client.

Mr Elachi, SAN, maintained that rhe former Minister successfully discharged the burden of proof placed on him by the law, insisting that he adduced credible evidence to substantiate his claims. 

He urged the court to dismiss the 1st defendant's contention that the suit was not properly served on her at her base in the United States of America.

The senior lawyer urged the court to also dismiss the defendant's argument that his client did not swear to the witness statement on oath that accompanied his suit.

On his part, Ms Onoh’s lawyer, Mr . J.O Okpor, argued that the former minister failed to prove "any defamatory words" used against him by his client. 

He wondered why Mr. Onyeama would seek to "gag the whole world from ever saying things against" him by "judicial sleight of hand."

Mr Okpor argued that Ms Onoh who testified in the suit via Zoom from her residence at Texas in the USA, "proved beyond reasonable doubt that the former Minister had no legal basis in law for the suit he filed. 

He further contended that the service of "an expired" court document on Ms Onoh’s former lawyer in the case, "Richard Aneke, in September 2023, was unlawful."

He insisted that the refusal of the trial judge to determine the propriety of the ex-Minister's libel suit until after final written addresses, demonstrated "the illegality that has trailed the adjudication of this matter."

Aside from the N2bn compensation, Ms Onoh urged the court to compel the claimant to refund what she spent on  "enormous cost of providing Zoom, which should have been provided by the court."

"The court is asked to grant the 1st defendant’s request for legal costs totalling N15million, and personal costs of USD160,000 being the lost income incurred by her since July 2023 when she became seized with this malicious suit by the claimant," Mr Okpor added.

Meanwhile, the other defendants in the case did not put up any legal representation during the hearing.

After the parties adopted their final addresses, trial Justice Keziah Ogbonnaya said the judgement date would be communicated to them.

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