Former Nigerian minister of state for defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, on Friday hit a roadblock in his defamation suit against Premium Times, Sahara Reporters and The Punch newspapers.
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Ikeja Division of the Lagos High Court adjourned the case to April 7 and ordered Obanikoro to settle the matter against the media organizations through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) within seven days.
“This is a case of defamation and the parties involved should settle at the ADR within seven days and give this court a progress report on the next adjourned date,” said Mrs. Ipaye.
Others who were sued alongside the three publications include Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters; and Festus Owete, General Editor at Premium Times.
They were sued by the former minister over a story in which they fingered him in the Ekiti State governorship election rigging scandal. According to Obanikoro, their “defamatory articles” had caused him “political and personal losses.”
He sought damages amounting to N1 billion. In addition, he asked the court to grant an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from publishing defamatory, damaging, offensive, or degrading statements against him.
He further sought an order of the court compelling the media houses to retract all the damaging articles against him by publishing an apology in their respective media.
He filed a similar suit against Sahara Reporters in New York where the company’s headquarters is located, accusing the medium of harming his reputation in Nigeria and the United States. That suit was dismissed two weeks ago by the Supreme Court of the state of New York which directed that the matter be resolved in a Nigerian court.
Last year, Justice Ipaye delivered a ruling describing the former minister’s application in his suit at the Lagos High Court as lacking in merit.
“There is nothing before the court that shows the applicant will suffer more harm if the injunction is not granted,” she said in April 2016.
“It is an error to seek to restrain a publisher of an article on the grounds of libel if there is no proof before the court that such material is libelous.
“I am persuaded that this application has no merit and an injunction is not appropriate in the circumstance.”