Posted by News Express | 26 February 2019 | 773 times
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has ordered the Federal Government to pay litigation costs to international human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, as a penalty for filing its defense out of time in a defamation lawsuit brought against it by Ogebe.
Delivering his ruling on Monday, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice AB Mohammed, said the government’s latest application for extension of time was contested by the plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Godwin Abarike, as “shopping for reasons” and producing “new sets of facts” as to why the government delayed.
He raised a solitary issue as to whether credible and cogent reasons were given and argued otherwise.
The court noted that the government appeared 17 months earlier than they claimed they were served and that the plaintiff closed his case on May 31, 2018 after the defendants cross-examined him and discovered the veracity of his case.
In the ruling, judge noted that records showed a September 25, 2018 motion to file a defense although the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation had already filed the Federal Government’s defense since April 2017, which was only withdrawn in December 2018.
Despite all the anomalies and irregularities, the court said it was “reluctant to shut out the defendants” and that the court “cannot close its eyes” to their defense citing the Latin maxim Audi alteram patem and Section 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Consequently, the court allowed the government to file its defense late.
Counsel for the plaintiff Mr. Abarike, requested N1 million in costs since the “plaintiff is mandated to return from USA to continue trial. It is only natural that costs follow the event.”
Ruling on his application for costs, Justice Mohammed said that the AGF was absent from court with no excuse even though the plaintiff, Emmanuel Ogebe, traveled all the way from the United States of America for the case.
He said the court must “balance the scale of justice” and therefore awarded the N1million cost to Mr. Ogebe against the Federal Government.
This is the third consecutive time costs have been awarded against the defendants for their tardy defense. No counsel from the AGF’s office was present in court.
The case was adjourned to April 16 for the government’s defense in the FCT Court, Gudu, Abuja.
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