A case filed by the Chief of Staff and son-inlaw to the Governor, Mr. Uche Nwosu in an Owerri High Court following a Newspaper publication on a cook who allegedly absconded with some amount of money alleged to be part of the bailout fund came up on Wednesday October 25, 2017 for hearing.
The sitting was for an application filed by Community Watchdog Newspaper through their lawyer, Prof. Francis Dike (SAN), seeking to set aside a “default judgment entered in favour of the claimant, Uche Nwosu after its first application on the 18th of October 2017 failed on technical grounds for which the defendant re-applied to have the judgment set aside.
Since it was a refusal to set aside the default judgment, the lead counsel of the Watchdog Newspaper, Professor F.C Dike, (SAN) former Attorney General of Imo State, took up the matter in view of its sensitive nature and revived the court process.
The matter was consequently fixed for hearing on Wednesday October 25, 2017, but before that day it was gathered that the claimant Uche Nwosu had gotten judgment order for which he published same on pages of Newspapers and then went to court to levy execution in swag.
Unfortunately, he found out that it was not possible since the defendant, Community Watchdog Newspapers, had diligently filed a motion to set aside the judgment. It was observed that the claimant Uche Nwosu in anticipation of a favourable ruling mobilized men to court possibly to witness the execution and expecting to be interviewed thereafter, following the anticipation that the court will strike out the matter.
He was however disappointed when Professor F.C Dike (SAN) a legal luminary of the highest order made a brilliant submission faulting the grounds on which the judgment was entered in the absence of both parties and cited no less than ten supreme court authorities to buttress his point.
The defense counsel while addressing the court on the case also applied to have the earlier application withdrawn which the court granted to him after Uche Nwosu’s counsel, and former T.C Chairman of Nkwerre LGA, Barrister Paschal Onwudike had reluctantly allowed without opposing it.
The new application was argued brilliantly by the defense lead counsel, Prof. Dike when he urged the court through the new application, to set aside the default judgment, grant extension of time, memorandum of appearance and showed evidence that the default fees had been completely paid with the accompanying proposed statement of defense showing sufficient readiness for the matter. Having complied with the provisions of the law, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) asked the court to set aside the judgment.
The counsel to the claimant told the court that the issue has become “funccus officio” citing a number of appeal court judgment to buttress his subtle opposition. On its part, the court contended that the matter could not be “funccus officio” because what was given was a “default judgment and not judgment on merit”, since the case has not been heard or concluded.
In his reaction, the defense counsel countered the claims of Barrister Pascal Onwukaike citing a number of supreme court judgments and authorities while also insisting that the claimant has no reason to oppose the application as it infringes on the right of his client to fair hearing. The court in its decision which turned out to be contrary to the expectation of Uche Nwosu, that the matter should struck out same day for the second time to enable them levy execution immediately, adjourned the matter to 31st January, 2018, for ruling. By implication, no execution would be levied on the Newspaper pending when the outcome of the next year.
Addressing the press outside the court room, after the hearing, Professor Dike said “whatever be the case, whether the ruling is given in favour or against, there is no cause for alarm as we are willing to go to appeal court”. We will be very diligent and attentive in whatever they do, let us hope for a favourable ruling.