A Benue State High Court presided over by Justice Augustine Ityonyiman has dismissed the case of defamation filed against a former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange, by Governor Samuel Ortom.
Ortom had in 2018, taken Ikyange to court for accusing him of deducting N50 million from each of the 23 local governments of Benue State every month, amounting to N23 billion and embezzling N22 billion security votes, an allegation the governor didn’t take lightly.
The governor in the suit was demanding for apology, retraction of the accusations in national dailies and television stations as well as payment of N1 billion naira as damages.
Delivering judgement in the suit, Justice Ityonyiman reproduced the submission of Ikyange’s legal team that the case of defamation of character cannot be proved by proxy, saying the governor ought to have appeared in court to give evidence that he was actually defamed, emphasizing that, the case of defamation of character is personal and direct against the plaintiff who will testify personally on how the defamatory words has affected him before calling witnesses.
According to the presiding Judge, the only evidence before the court was that of PW2 who was said to be the younger brother of the governor, who could not show how the alleged defamatory statement had reduced the high standing of his elder brother.
Ruling on the alleged injurious press briefing, it was the considered opinion of the court that the briefing which the governor branded as offensive to his reputation emanated from the Notice of Impeachment presented on the floor of the Assembly on the 30/07/2018, which Mr. Ikyange presided as speaker.
On the Governor’s claim that at the time Mr. Ikyange made the defamatory statement in the press briefing he had been impeached, Justice Ityonyiman stated that only evidence of the lawful removal of Mr. Ikyange as speaker could swing the tide against him which unfortunately the governor could not provide.
Justice Ityonyiman averred further that in all the suits in MHC/256/2018, MHC/262/2028 and MHC/259/2018, there was no pronouncement on the removal of Mr. Ikyange as speaker, stressing that the insurance that Ikyange was removed did not have the support of the exhibit in reference.
Reacting to the Judgement, Mr. Ikyange said it was based on sound legal foundation, while a member of the Northeast Development Commission, Barr. Benjamin Adanyi, expressed hope that the judgement would put an end to incessant litigations against Benue indigenes by the governor.
Also reacting to the judgement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State congratulated Rt. Hon. Ikyange on his victory.
A statement by the publicity secretary of the party, James Ornguga, said, “We urge all APC members who have needlessly been taken to court by the Ortom administration to be calm as the days of his administration are already numbered and the day of reckoning is almost here.”