The Court of Appeal Abuja yesterday ordered a fresh trial of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a N5 billion defamation suit brought by a business mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
A three-man panel presided over by Justice Abraham Goergewill ordered the retrial after setting aside the judgment of the lower court for failing to give Dokpesi fair hearing before dismissing his suit against the minister.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, in a judgment delivered on July 6, 2021, held that Dokpesi failed to establish his claim that Mohammed defamed him by allegedly including his name in a supposed list of looters at a press conference he (Mohammed) addressed on March 30, 2018.
Justice Adeniyi, in the judgment, faulted the evidence led by Dokpesi through the eight witnesses he called and held that the claimant failed to prove the publication of the alleged defamatory statement.
Noting that the situation presented by the witnesses could be termed; “hear one, hear all,” the judge found that the evidence of the witnesses were materially the same.
Justice Adeniyi also found that the witnesses called by Dokpesi, who claimed to have watched the press conference on Channels TV, did not give evidence in respect of the exact statement made by Mohammed, which they claimed defamed the claimant.
However, the appellate court yesterday held that the decision of the lower court was erroneous.
The Appeal Court therefore ordered that any other Judge except Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the Federal Capital Territory High Court should be assigned the retrial.