The out-of-court settlement embarked upon by parties in a N5 billion libel suit instituted by the immediate past Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, has failed in a Benin High Court presided over by Justice Vestee Eboreime
Igini had dragged Col. David Imuse (rtd) and two others to court over a media report where the Edo APC chairman allegedly accused the former REC of receiving bribe from Governor Godwin Obaseki ahead of the 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
Also joined in the suit are the African Newspapers of Nigeria PLC, publishers of the Tribune titles of Newspapers and the Sun Publishing Ltd, publishers of the Sun titles of Newspapers.
Counsel to Imuse, Austin Osarenkhoe had at the last adjournment on August 4 made an oral application for the out-of-court settlement.
However, on the resumed hearing on Monday, Clement Onwuwuenor, SAN, counsel to the Igini, told the court that an agreement could not be reached as settlement broke down due to unsatisfactory terms of resolutions brought forth by Imuse, the first defendant in the case.
Consequent to the collapse of this alternative dispute resolution, counsel to the three defendants had to proceed with cross-examination of Igini, who had earlier been led on evidence and presented his exhibits at the last hearing.
Igini under the cross-examination admitted that the newspapers sought his reaction before they published, but noted that the reaction was not enough to malign his integrity.
On an application for extension of time to file statement of defence by the APC Chairman, Justice Eboreime ordered the first defendant to file his defence within 48 hours, having defaulted in the process.
The judge awarded a cost N50,000 against the defendant to the claimant for defaulting the earlier order of the court on the statement of defence.
The judge adjourned until November 15 and 16 for continuation of hearing.
Speaking to newsmen later, Igini’s Counsel, Onwuwuenor, said negotiations for the out-of-settlement broke down because Imuse failed to offer substantial proposal, but noted, however, his client was still open to settlement out of court.
Osarenkhoe on his own said, his client could not meet the terms of settlement gave by the claimant because they were too stringent.
Osarenkhoe, however, noted that both parties were still disposed to settlement.