A judge in a State High Court, Uyo, November 25, scolded a defence counsel in a suit in which the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, was awarded N1.5 billion as damages for libel.
Ekaete Obot, the state’s Chief Judge, lashed out at the counsel, Inibehe Effiong, who said the court had breached the Nigerian Constitution in its December 15, 2020 judgment against his client, Leo Ekpenyong.
A drama ensued as the claimant counsel, Samuel Ikpo, also shouted “sit down” at Mr Effiong, who insisted the court should hear him.
“You don’t stand before me and talk nonsense,” Justice Obot lashed out at the human rights lawyer.
“I’ve been on this side of the law for over 30 years and you don’t come and teach me the law from there.”
Mr Effiong, who urged the court to give priority to his application for extension of time, cited the Supreme Court position on the matter, “Notwithstanding that preliminary objection is on jurisdiction, provided there is an application before the court for extension of time that application must be taken first”.
Refusing Mr Effiong’s application, the judge said, “Preliminary objections are taken first in every proceeding, especially when it touches on jurisdiction. If you have replied to that objection, why are you afraid?”
“Is anything the matter with you?” she continued. “This is the court of law and things are done according to rules here. Sentiments do not overrule that.
“You are not on Channels Television, neither are you on Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Television,” she said.
Governor Emmanuel sued Mr Ekpenyong for defamation of character over the publication in which he accused the governor of “buying judgment” from the 2019 National Assembly Election Tribunal.
The court, in its judgment on December 15, 2020, ordered the defendant to pay N1.5 billion to the governor as general damages for libel.
In another defamation case between a former senator, Effiong Bob, and Mr Ekpenyong, the court had ordered Mr Ekpenyong to pay N150 million as damages to Mr Bob.
Both judgments were given on December 15, 2020, by Justice Obot.
Displeased with the judgment, the defendant, through his counsel, Mr Effiong, urged the court to set it aside and grant an extension of time for his client to defend his case.
Counsel to Governor Emmanuel, Mr Ikpo, in a notice of preliminary objection, said the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the prayers of the defendant.
In his application, Mr Effiong urged the court to set aside the two judgments on grounds that it violates his client’s right to a fair hearing.
The lawyer who said he was relying on the certified true copy of judgment told the court that no hearing notice was issued on his client about the adjournment, which was done off-record by the court registrar, and not the judge.
“We are saying no hearing notice was issued on my client. He was not informed about the adjournment which was done off record, not by the judge but the registrar,” Mr Effiong said, describing the earlier judgment of the court as “miscarriage of justice”.
Mr Ikpo, in his preliminary objection, argued that the defendant’s application was incompetent, having been brought outside the three months period stipulated by the law, adding that the court lacks jurisdiction to extend such time.
The case was adjourned to January 12, 2022, for the ruling.