Court dismisses Sen Enang’s objection against Udom’s defamation suit

By Admin

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, has dismissed the preliminary objection raised by Senator Ita Enang against the defamation suit filed against him by the immediate past Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel.

Udom suing through his lawful attorney Ekerete Udoh had dragged Senator Enang before the court in 2019 for an alleged defamatory statement he (Enang) made against him while speaking at a Lagos based radio station.

Not being able to serve Senator Enang with the writ of summons in the suit no CV/2058/2019, within the six months duration allowed by the rules of the court, Udom through his lawyer, Dr Charles Mekwunye, SAN, filed an exparte application for its renewal which was granted by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi.

Upon being served with the originating processes, Senator Enang filed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.

Enang argued through his lawyer, Ntufam Ukweni, SAN, that the court was wrong to have heard and ruled on the exparte application filed by Udom since according to him, at the expiration of the initial writ of summons, there was no longer a substantive suit before the court warranting it to assume jurisdiction .

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Senator Enang also raised three other objections; that Udom wrongfully filed the suit through Ekerete Udoh, that he did not joined the radio station where the alleged defamatory statement was made and that the entire suit did not disclose any course of action.

Ruling on Senator Enang’s preliminary objection last month, Justice Adeniyi dismissed all his grounds of objection.

On the validity of the renewed Writ of Summons which Enang challenged, the court agreed with the argument of Dr Mekwunye, SAN, that a Writ that has not been served at the expiration of its life span is not void but merely ceases to be in force and as such remains valid until it is renewed.

Justice Adeniyi held, “On the contention of the senior learned counsel that the Claimant served the Defendant with the same ‘dead’ Writ, after obtaining the leave of Court, and as such rendering the Writ incompetent, I hold that the Claimant’s failure to comply with the Form prescribed in Order 6 Rule 6(2) of the Rules of this Court, for service of the renewed Writ on the Defendant is a mere irregularity that has no fatal consequences to the competence of the Writ or the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the same.

“I agree with the submissions of the Claimant’s senior learned counsel that the provision of Order 5 Rule 2 of the Rules of this Court is applicable to cure the irregularity. On the basis of the foregoing analysis, I must disagree with the submissions of the senior learned counsel for the Defendant that the order made renewing the lifespan of the expired Writ was made without jurisdiction or that the Writ was dead as it were. Those grounds of the objection are accordingly overruled. ”

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On Enang’s objection that Udom wrongfully initiated the suit through Ekerete Udoh, the court held: ” Whether or not the name of the person endorsed on the face of the Writ as the attorney by whom the Claimant has commenced the action is different from the person whose name is pleaded in paragraph 2 of the Statement of Claim as well as in the Power of Attorney frontloaded alongside the Statementof Claim, are not matters that could in any way render the Claimant’s action incompetent or affect the Court’s jurisdiction to entertain the same. I so hold.

“As was clearly held by the Court of Appeal in Emecheta vs Okeke, the donor of a Power of Attorney is not precluded from performing by himself, the functions delegated to be done by the Power of Attorney. As such, in the present case, the Claimant is not bound by the authority he gave to Ekerete Udoh to initiate the action on his behalf. As the Claimant, he has the liberty to elect either to give evidence in the case in person or through anyone he elects, so far as the adverse party has notice of who his witness(ses) is(are).”

The court also overruled Enang’s objection that the radio station where he made the alleged defamatory statement was not joined, saying that it is rudimentary that a claimant can decide who to sue between the author and the publisher in a defamation suit or both.

On Enang’s objection that Udom had not disclosed any cause of action in the suit, the court held; “It is my humble view that for the Court to determine, at this stage of the proceedings, whether or not the Claimant has proved publication of the alleged libel will amount to deciding the Claimant’s substantive suit at an interlocutory stage.

“I must also overrule this ground of the objection. In the final analysis, I must remark that the instant objection has attempted to cast a shadow of technicality on the substance of this case; though unsuccessfully. Accordingly, the objection, considered a wasteful adventure, must be and is hereby accordingly dismissed.”

The matter has been adjourned to June 6, 2024 for hearing.

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