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Former Works Minister, Anenih Loses N500m Defamation Suit Against Oshiomhole’s Aide

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A High Court in Benin City, the Edo state capital, has dismissed a N500 million slander suit instituted by the chairman, Board of Trustees, BOT, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Tony Anenih, against the chief press secretary to Edo State Governor and the Edo State Broadcasting Service, EBS.

In a judgment delivered on Friday by Justice U.I Erameh in consolidated Suits Nos: B/285/2010 & B/366/2010 between Tony Anenih as petitioner and Peter Okhiria, Edo Broadcasting Corporation and Bendel Newspaper Company Limited who are the defendants, the court declined to grant the request of Anenih to affirm that a press release issued on behalf of the state government in 2010 was defamatory and therefore rejected the request for N500 million damages, among others.

Anenih had sued the defendants, seeking N500 million as damages, saying that a press release issued on behalf of the state government by Okhiria defamed him.

Justice Erameh in her judgment stated that the defence of privileged occasion gives the first defendant, Okhiria the freedom on the ground that he acted on the instruction of the chief security officer of the state, Governor Oshiomole to educate and inform the general public on security activities in the state.

She added that such statement was made by the chief press secretary in his official capacity as the spokesperson of the government of Edo State and as such he could not be held responsible for defamation because statement made on privileged occasion is a defence to slander.

The Judge further observed that preceding the publication of the press release was a bomb scare incidence at the premises of Edo State House of Assembly and Edo State Broadcasting Services, leading to serious security crisis, which demanded that the publication be made in order to keep the public well-informed with the security situation on ground in the state.

However, the judge entered judgment against Bendel Newspaper Company Limited in the consolidated suit, accusing the media outfit of failing to enter any defense.

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Bendel Newspaper Publishing Company had sought to defend the suit before the judgment by filing all the required court processes but the judge rejected the application on the ground that it failed to enter appearance on time.

The Edo State  Solicitor-General, Wole Iyamu, said Bendel Newspaper has already filed a notice of appeal and stay of execution against the said judgment as it concerns the media company.

Chief press secretary to the governor was represented by Stanley Imhanruor of Femi Falana Chambers, Edo Brodcasting Service was represented by O.A Otamere and Tony Anenih was represented by Alfred Eghobamien.

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