..Adjourns till February 14
Dramatic moments played out at the State High Court in Uyo, Monday when counsel to the defendant failed to properly file an application to take over in a case of libel earlier ruled against Barr Leo Ekpenyong.
Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Justice Ekaete Obot, had fixed Monday January 17 for Barr Inibehe Effiong to formally file a motion to take over the case from Barr Patrick Umoh.
Barr Inibehe Effiong was also expected to pay a fine for late filing of motion on the change of counsel, failure of which means that all his efforts ab initio, amounted to nullity.
But Effiong, accused by the Judge of sneaking in through the backdoor, is appealing for the fine, cumulatively estimated to be about 36,000 to be waived.
The motion was to precede judgement on a case asking it to set aside its earlier ruling in which the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, was awarded N1.5 billion as damages for libel.
The judgement was scheduled for Tuesday in a State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, after the claimant’s counsel, Samuel Ikpo and defence counsel, Inibehe Effiong, had presented their arguments in the case.
But the judge, Ekaete Obot, who is the state chief judge of Akwa Ibom State, ordered the defence counsel, Mr Effiong, to file an application for change of counsel.
Mr Effiong took over the case after the court, on December 15, 2020, ruled that the defendant, Leo Ekpenyong, should pay the claimant, Governor Emmanuel N1.5 billion as damages for libel.
Governor Emmanuel had sued Mr Ekpenyong for defamation of character over a publication in which he accused the governor of “buying judgment” from the 2019 National Assembly Election Tribunal.
Mr Effiong, who made his first appearance for the matter on November 25, 2021, argued that the court had breached the Nigerian Constitution in its December 15, 2020 judgment against his client, Mr Ekpenyong.
Justice Obot ordered Mr Effiong to apply for regularisation of counsel as he (Mr Effiong) was taking over the same case from the former counsel. She further ordered that the former counsel be served.
However when the court reconvened on January 17, it frowned at Barr Effiong for merely writing a personal letter to the judge to inform her of his decision to take over as defence counsel.
The court decided that it was only proper for him to apply through a motion properly filed in the open court.
Barr Effiong’s appeal for an oral motion was also rejected.
The case has been adjourned to February 14.
The court is hearing the matter simultaneously with another defamation case between a former senator, Effiong Bob, and Mr Ekpenyong, which the court had ordered Mr Ekpenyong to pay N150 million as damages to Mr Bob.