Odinkalu to Appeal N250m Defamation Judgment

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*Drags Rivers judge to NJC

Alex Enumah in Abuja

A former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Professor Chidi Odinkalu has said he will appeal the judgment of a Rivers State High Court, which ruled against him in a defamation suit.

Justice Augustina Kingsley-Chuku of a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt had on Monday slammed a sum of N250million as cost against Odinkalu for allegedly publishing defamatory materials against a former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.

Odili had in 2018 instituted legal action against the ex-NHRC boss for alleged defamation, demanding the sum of N1 billion as total and general damages and a public apology to be published in national newspapers.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Kingsley-Chuku ordered the defendant to pay Odili N250million and an additional N300,000 as cost.

However, reacting to the judgment, lawyers to Odinkalu said they are going to appeal the judgment, adding that the defendant had already instructed them to do so.

In a statement made available to journalists by his legal team, Odinkalu faulted the judgment on grounds of bias, and misconduct, amongst others, which he said has been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

“We had in the course of proceedings filed a petition against the presiding Judge, Justice Augustina Kingsley-Chuku, before the National Judicial Council (NJC) for manifest acts of bias in clear breach of the Judicial Code of Conduct and violation of basic constitutional guarantees of due process, which made impossible a fair representation of the interests of our clients in the proceedings.

“Every effort to bring these breaches to the attention of the court was frustrated. Counsel was denied the basic right to present their case and when counsel applied to the court to recuse itself, the court repeatedly doubled down, ultimately forcing counsel to withdraw from further participation in the proceedings,” the statement said.

The legal team added that as at the time of the reported judgment, there are appeals pending before the Court of Appeal against several rulings of the court, including its claim of jurisdiction.

It also noted that there is also pending before the NJC a complaint of judicial misconduct in connection with the proceedings in this case.

Odinkalu’s lawyers claimed that apart from Odinkalu, several users of the Court had also alleged bias against the judge.

“It has not come as a surprise to us that other court users have alleged a similar experience in this particular court, including, most recently, the national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who similarly laid a complaint of bias against this same court.

“Our clients have instructed counsel to vigorously pursue legal remedies on his behalf, including appeals. They intend to do just that in faith that the Nigerian judicial system is eminently well equipped to correct every travesty”, the statement added.