The lingering N1 billion defamation legal battle slammed against an Isoko born Abuja human rights lawyer, Anthony Ejumejowo Esq by S.O Olotu, chairman of S.O. Olotu and Sons Nigeria Limited, a local construction company, in connivance with the immediate past House of Representatives minority leader and member representing Isoko federal constituency, Mr. Leo Ogor over the Ozoro N2.4 billion road contract in Isoko North local government area of Delta state has ended with Ejumejowo flooring Ogor and Olotu.
The suit with case file number DT/HOR/21/2014, which has been on at the High Court 2, sitting in Asaba, the state capital, was dismissed Tuesday, June, 18, 2019 the presiding judge, Justice T.O. Diai.
It would be recalled that controversy and public outcry by Isoko indigenes had in 2014 greeted the controversial N2.4 billion Ozoro township roads awarded to the chairman, S.O. Olotu and Sons Nigeria Limited by the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), following the unilateral reduction nearly in half, from a length of 28.4 kilometers, to 15.2 kilometers by the contractor in alleged connivance with the immediate past House of Representatives minority leader, and member representing Isoko Federal constituency Mr. Leo Ogor.
Ozoro indigenes during the controversy over the unilateral reduction in the road and alleged large scale of fraud discovered, had accused the contractor of allegedly conniving with the house of representatives former minority leader, Leo Ogor to secure approval of reduction from the commission ‘through the back door,’ with the assistance of some staff of the commission to fraudulently alter the earlier length of the road and falsification of the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) for the roads construction.
HardReporters reliably gathered that the story of the alleged fraud discovery in the controversial N2.4billion roads contract which was first reported by a New York online news platform, SaharaReporters in 2014 when the issue was ranging, saw Ogor instigating S.O Olotu, chairman, S.O. Olotu and Sons Nigeria Limited to file a N1 billion defamation suit against SaharaReporters, Francis Spanner Okpozo, now late, Amour Udemude, a Journalist, Williams Omoviro and Isoko born Abuja human rights lawyer, Anthony Ejumejowo Esq as (Defendants).
It was learnt that due to inability of the claimants to properly serve the New York based online news platform, SaharaReporters, Amour Udemude, the Journalist accused of reporting the alleged fraudulent contract controversy, their names were struck including that of Francis Spanner Okpozo who later died and Williams Omiviro who went and tendered an unreserved apology to the claimants.
The claimants however refused to let Anthony Ejumejowo Esq off the legal hook who they claimed has caused them serious damages and his refusal to tender any form of unreserved apology as demanded by the claimants.
In the defamation suit, the claimants continued with his demand for the sum of N1 billion from the Isoko born Abuja human rights lawyer, Anthony Ejumejowo Esq, over what they termed deformation, character assassination and damages suffered by him and his company through letters addressed to the NDDC board by the defendant over the roads contract.
The suit which lingered for about six years was first held in February, 2014 at the Orerokpe high court and was transferred to the high court, Ozoro and finally moved to the high court 2, Asaba, in 2017, where a final judgement was entered in June, 18, 2019.
Delivering her judgement at the high court 2, Asaba, the presiding judge, Justice T.O. Diai, after citing several authorities on defamation of character among others, held that the claimants failed to prove their case of defamation of character beyond reasonable doubts.
“Though, the letters written to the commission by the defendant carried some strong words but the claimants could not proved to this court that actually the letters defamed them in any way or suffered any damages from the letters before their co-contractors and the society as claimed, therefore “the case is hereby dismissed.”
Speaking with Journalists, the defendant’s counsel, Afor Irogbo Esq, thanked and commended the judge for the judgement which he described as “landmark and victory over evil”.
“The judgement no doubt is a victory for advocacy in Isoko nation. I must also commend the boldness, doggedness and steadfastness of my client and colleague, the defendant, Barrister Anthony Ejumejowo, Isoko lawyers and all those who stood and fought especially on the social media in ensuring that the right thing is done as far as the Ozoro township roads contract is concerned. I thank all members of Umeh Need Road facebook forum.”
The claimants’ counsel, Don. O. Egho esq, could not wait to be interviewed by Journalists, immediately the case was delivered in favour of the defendant, he zoomed off.
Meanwhile in a personal statement by the defendant, Anthony Ejumejowo Esq, entitled “Re: 1Billion Naira Libel Suit Against My Person By S.O.Olotu & Sons Limited (My Statement).”, the Isoko born Abuja based human rights lawyer, thanked all those who gave him support when the case lasted.
“I want to specially thank my elder brother and senior colleague, Irogbo Afor, his beautiful wife and all the staff of Irogbo, Irogbo & co for their selfless assistance in the prosecution of this matter to a logical conclusion. I also want to thank my most respected senior colleague and my namesake Anthony Egbedi for his assistance while the matter was in Orerokpe Division. I cannot forget those class of people who did not know me before but turned out every time to support me and have became brothers to me like Theophilus Imoniero, Adums Aghogho and others I cannot just call for want of space.
“I cannot also forget the solidarity shown me by my former codefendant Amour Udemude and my elder brother Mano Ohoriemu. While I am most elated this is over and in good terms, I do not see it as my victory but one for the advocacy family. I only want to dwell on the lessons learnt in the course of the matter. While I have made some friends as a result of this matter, I have also had some relationship strained too as a result. While in the last two years I have tried to make peace with those I otherwise offended, I also to say that I forgive those too who offended me and I bear no grudge and ill-feelings.
“I shall in this vain take any opportunity if it comes my way to apologize to the person of Evangelist S.O.Olotu because as it became clear, there was more than met the eye than what was read and written on the Ozoro roads that ignited this matter in 2014. I want to most importantly advise every one of us in the course of our advocacy to be mindful of what we publish because repercussions could be enormous. I must say experience was not without enormous cost and inconvenience for the five years this matter lasted.
“I did what I did and came out not so battered largely because I am a lawyer and could tap from professional resources available to me. I had been viewed as arrogant by many for refusing to apologize but the conditions were not as presented in some quarters. I want to use this opportunity to apologize to all and sundry that I may have offended knowingly or unknowingly. I also want to appeal to everyone for us to bury this matter and all that are incidental to it in the past it belong to and let us move forward in the interest of Isoko from which the debate started.
“I want to specially thank His Royal Highness, the Ovie of Ozoro, Sir Itiako Constantine Ikpokpo and Chief Afahokor Akpovienehe Duncan (Ododo), for the special roles and support both at resolving the matter and their encouragement when resolution failed. May the soul of my former co-defendant, late Senator Spanner Okpozo rest in peace. For me, there is no victor, no vanquished. Advocacy won. I thank you all for your congratulatory messages. Isoko wadho!!!!”, the statement concluded.