By Mumini AbdulKareem and Kayode Adeoti
A Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin yesterday struck out a suit filed by the owner of online medium, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore seeking to set aside the N4bn judgement awarded against him for allegedly publishing libellous stories against the person of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, counsel to Sowore, Femi Falana (SAN) represented by Stanley Ihmaruo prayed the court to set aside the judgment awarded against the medium by the trial judge, Justice Sikiru Oyinloye.
But the court ruled that the motion is not matured for hearing and that the judgement creditor is still within time to respond to same.
The case was later adjourned to Thursday, 14th September, 2017 for continuation of the case.
Ihmaruo had argued that his client was not served any court process by Saraki’s counsel before the judgement was delivered and prayed for stay of proceedings.
According to him, “We want the court to set aside the entire proceedings. We’ve filed other papers restraining the order in the proceedings. When the matter came up, the judgement creditors respondents could not respond to our papers for the hearing of our applications,” he said.
But, counsel to Senate President, Paul Erokoro (SAN) told the court that the judgement debtor served them the motion on the 23th of this month, saying they are still within time frame to file the responses.
He argued further that the rule say they can file in the responses to the motion of the credit debtor after 7days, adding that it is only 6days away. He noted that they never violated the law, adding that “In this case, adjournment is inevitable,”
Speaking with journalists after the court session, Erokoro chided the Sahara Reporterss for speaking ill of the integrity of the Kwara State High Court judge.
He added that it is improper for a media outfit to be referring to a judge as a black-market or Jankara…
He said, “I don’t think it is right for any section of the press to say a High Court judge is a black market or Jankara…Judges cannot address the press as we do, so it is not right to say a judge is corrupt when he is just doing his work in an upright manner.
“Sahara Reporters kept on writing scurrilous reports about the Senate President, accusing him of all manners of misdeeds. The charges filed by the Federal government were dismissed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) because there were no evidences. But on social media, Sahara Reporters continued to hit on the integrity of the Senate President. This is why he sued the medium and won and a damage of N4billion was awarded against the publisher.
“They came to court that the judgment should be set aside that they didn’t know that there was a case against them even though it was published on several pages of Guardian newspaper, the Punch, sent to their email address and they acknowledged the receipts…the administration of justice is being endangered by the constant attacks on the integrity of the court needlessly.
“The constitutional power granted the press before the 1979 constitution didn’t come easily, it was fiercely debated…this implies, the constitutional responsibility granted the press must be respected, it has to be seen for what it is,
Further responding to journalists after the case, Ihmaruo insisted “we were not served as Sahara Reporters and as Sowore, the originating process and other processes including hearing notice. Consequence upon the judgement of the court, we applied that the court should set it aside since we couldn’t get records of the proceedings, because it was not made available to us… but the court made an order attacking the money in our account…
At the court premises, mammoth crowd majorly supporters and loyalists of the Senate President thronged the court premises as early as 7:30am.
Inscriptions on placards displayed at the court include, “Saraki Hope of Kwarans”, “Saraki is our leader”, “Stop hunting, blackmailing, victimising” among many others.
They reportedly shunned all the entreaties said to have been made by Sowore and declared support and loyalty for Saraki.
…I didn’t sponsor thugs to beat up observers at Kwara court – Saraki
The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki has denied sponsoring thugs to beat up observers at a high court in Kwara State.
On Wednesday, there was pandemonium at the court when some thugs unleashed violence on people who came to observe proceedings in the libel case between Saraki and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore,.
The court had asked Sowore to pay Saraki N4 billion for allegedly defaming him but the former is seeking a vacation of the order.
Sowore gave his own account of what transpired at the court on his Facebook page, alleging that thugs hired by the Senate President attacked his lawyers and supporters.
But in a statement issued yesterday by Bamikole Omishore, the Special Assistant on New Media to the Senate President said his principal did not sponsor thugs to anyone at the court.
“It is absolutely false that supporters of the senate president attacked anyone. It is on record that Sowore has been making frantic efforts to instigate people against Saraki,” he said.
“Sowore posted on his Facebook page a few days ago begging people to come to court in Kwara state to his defence, which failed, that must have been why he paid two people to disrupt the court proceedings.
“I was informed that two individuals were apprehended in Ilorin, Kwara State at the premises of the court for trying to cause a fracas, during questioning they mentioned that they were paid by Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters.
“Since the judge ruled against Sahara Reporters to pay damages of N4 billion, Sowore has been running from pillar to post to intimidate everyone, including members of the judiciary. But the time has come for that to stop and we are determined to follow this to the letter.”