By Ado Hassan,Sokoto
JUSTICE Bello Abbas of the Sokoto High Court on Thursday slammed a N5,000 fine against Leadership Group Ltd., publishers of Leadership Newspaper to be paid to the plaintiff, Labaran Lumo Dundaye following the second defendant’s refusal to appear before the Court on October 4th, 2018 without genuine reasons in a N50 million suit for defamation of character filed by the later.
Justice Abbas who served the penalty against the second defendant at a sitting in continuation of the hearing of the case, also adjourned sitting for 9th October, 2018.
Counsel to the second defendant, Barrister S.E King, had told the court that he called the second defendant on phone and informed him that a hearing notice was served to him through his chamber against court sitting on the 4th October 2018.
King also said the second defendant told him that he will be travelling to Abeokuta to attend the Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ), National delegates conference.
The counsel also told the court that he called the state chairman of the NUJ on the issue and the chairman confirmed that they will be at Abeokuta for the NUJ delegates conference on that very day.
King further told the court that the State Chairman of the NUJ called him and confirmed that the union is holding its conference on that date at Abeokuta.
He tendered an unreserved apology to the Court for his client’s absence to enable the court continue with the cross examinations of the defendant as scheduled.
In his argument, Counsel to the plaintiff, Barrister Muhammad Adeleke, who vehemently rejected application of the second defendant’s Counsel, told the court that the reasons presented by the defendant was a tactical excuse to delay the continuation of the second defendant’s cross examinations and the progress of the case.
According to Adeleke, the second defendant had enough time latitude to inform the Court on his proposed trip plan before the Court sitting but not after he was served with notice of Court sitting reminding him on the earlier adjourned date.
” It is a purported claim by the second defendant that he travelled to Abeokuta on the fixed continuation date to attend an NUJ National Delegates Conference. It is false and was a tactics implored by the second defendant to delay the proceedings of the case.”
He further explained that available facts revealed that the second defendant was not among the union’s delegates as such he has not travel to anywhere and presenting is residing in Sokoto state.
Adeleke prayed the Court to reject what he described as ‘ flimsy’ excuse by the second defendant and consider his absence in the court as “court contempt.”
He also prayed the Court to order the second defendant to pay a fine of N20,000, as penalty and fix a short date for the continuation of the case.
It would be recalled that the case was filed before the Court in April 2016 by the plaintiff and former Chairman, NUJ, Sokoto state Council, Labaran Lumo Dundaye against the two respondents.