Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
A Rivers High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has fixed June 26 as the new date for hearing in the N1.5 billion libel suit instituted by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, against the federal government and two others for including his name in the list of looters.
Secondus had slammed a N1.5 billion suit against the federal government; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Vintage Press Limited (Publishers ofÂ The NationÂ Newspapers) in Suit No. Suit PHC/1013/2018 for alleged defamation as his name was listed as a looter in the list published by the minister of information and culture for allegedly collecting N200 million on February 19, 2015 from the office of then National Security Adviser.
The court had in its sitting of April 23Â issued an order restraining the defendants from further publishing the name of Secondus in the list of looters and had adjourned the matter to yesterday for hearing.
The judge also ordered that the hearing notice be served the respondents by the plaintiff.
But when the matter came up yesterday, the presiding judge and Chief Judge of Rivers, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, did not sit but the court gave June 26 as new date to hear the matter.
Neither the defendants nor their counsel was in court except counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Emeka Etiaba (SAN),who led Emeka Okpoko (SAN) and others.
Addressing journalists shortly after getting the new date for hearing, Etiaba confirmed June 26 as the new date for the matter.
He however expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of the defendants in the matter even though the court did not sit.
His words: â€œUnfortunately, we were not told in advance that the court will not sit. We are here. But much as no party was informed that the court will not sit; none of the defendant is in court.
â€œIt is instructive that the matter was filed on April 6, 2018 and on April 14, the defendants were all served by substituted means.
â€œIt is about two months or more now and they have not bothered to put appearance, to file any defence, in a matter where they published that Secondus looted the economy of this country.
â€œThey have not bothered to come to court to demonstrate how he looted or collected the sum of N200 million from the coffers of government.
â€œIt is our belief that having failed to put up appearance, to attend court to file a defence, to depose how the looting was done, the defendants are rough riding the judiciary and the rule of law in this country.
â€œThere is no reason why they should not be in court. No individual is above the law. It is very sad. The matter has been adjourned to June 26.â€
He said his team undertook â€œto serve hearing notice on the defendants and then wait and see whether they will respond or not.â€™â€™
â€œBut on the next adjourned date, if they are not in court, we will move the court to hear the suit.
â€œWe will not be waiting for defendants who are not willing to submit themselves to the discipline of the judiciary,â€™â€™ he said.