Former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, on Thursday retracted the comments he made on the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, at a press conference on 27th July, 2018, which had been a subject of a N10 billion defamation suit.
The retraction was published in a number of national newspapers on Thursday 18th March, 2021.
Oshiomhole had, during a world press conference, accused the Benue governor of deepening the circle of poverty in his state. He also alleged that Ortom mismanaged bailouts and Paris Club refund and refused to pay salaries.
As if that was not enough, the then national chairman of the APC also accused the Benue governor of having a hand in the death of two Catholic priests and other parishioners at Mbalom Community, Gwer East Local Government, on the grounds that one of the priests had preached a ‘very critical sermon’ against him (the governor).
A letter written by Samuel Irabor, the governor’s counsel, demanding a retraction and apology described the allegations against his client as very astonishing, unsubstantiated, and wild.
Irabor had demanded “That the said retraction/apology be simultaneously published in the Sunday edition of 10 national dailies circulating within Benue State as well as a paid advertorial to the same effect on the prime time beats of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Channels TV, TVC News, African Independent Television (AIT), Independent Television (ITV) Benin, Radio Nigeria, Radio Benue and Harvest FM, Makurdi.”
Other demands include “An undertaking not to indulge in any such false publication against our client in future; payment of N10,000,000,000 (Ten Billion Naira) only to our client as punitive, general, exemplary and aggravated damages.”
While the case lasted in court, Oshiomole in the early days of the suit had filed six preliminary objections which the court resolved all in Ortom’s favour.
On resumption of the case for definite hearing two weeks ago, however, counsel for the governor, Samuel Irabor, told the court that he was ready to call his witnesses, but Oshiomhole’s counsel had informed him earlier that they had considered putting up a retraction of the publication.
Oshiomhole’s retraction which circulated in a number of newspapers read: “On the 27th day of July, 2018 at the National Headquarters of the All Progressives Congress and particularly in my capacity then as the Chairman of the party, I addressed different national issues as well as some events which occurred in Benue State, including the movement earlier that day of his Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom (Executive Governor of Benue State) from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party.
“In the course of the press conference, I made certain comments about Dr Ortom on the basis of information I have since found to be false and baseless.
“His Excellency, Dr Samuel Ortom, felt embarrassed, defamed and deeply aggrieved by the comments I made at the said press conference, culminating in litigation.
“That politics aside, Governor Samuel Ortom is a dear friend and brother with whom I have shared so much in common, including mutual respect.
“That as former colleagues and one time members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and most importantly as someone whom I am just a phone call away from, any ridicule, embarrassment, spite and insult caused Dr Samuel Ortom is regretted.
“Owing to the relationship we share and in the larger interest of peace, harmony and brotherliness, I believe a complete retraction of my comments made on 27th July, 2018, and which Dr Samuel Ortom found offensive is proper and necessary.
“In view of all the above, I hereby retract the comment made during the press conference on 27th July, 2018, as it relates to Dr Samuel Ortom.”