ByÂ Emma Amaize
WARRIâ€”A Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja Court presided over by the Chief Justice of Abuja, Justice Gunmmi,Â Â has adjourned a N1 billion libel suit instituted by the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe against the Independent Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Daily Independent Newspaper to October 19 to enable the newspaperâ€™s lawyers cross- examine the minister.
Orubebeâ€™s chief press secretary, Mr. Ekenwan Akwagbe, told Vanguard yesterday that Orubebe took the newspaper to court after it published a story in its edition of Wednesday, May 6, 2009,Â alleging that the minister had diverted N200 millionÂ meant for Niger -Delta youths.
According to the newspaper, â€œthe minister used the money to purchase properties in London and houseboats in the Niger Delta.
The minister said he received many distressing and embarrassing enquiries, including letters and phone calls from friends and other well-meaning Nigerians after the publication of the story.
His words: â€œThe minister had immediately denounced the story as false, calling it a figment of the newspaperâ€™s imagination.
â€œHe, therefore, instructed his lawyers to institute a libel suit against the Daily Independent, claiming N1billion as damages after the two-week ultimatum he gave the paper to publish a retraction and an unreserved apology expiredâ€.
It was learnt that when the case came up for hearing yesterday (Monday) in Abuja,Â neither the Daily Independent nor its lawyers were present in court, forcing Justice Gunmmi to adjourn the case to give opportunity to the media houseÂ to cross examine the minister.