Ibadan — An Oyo state High Court sitting in Ibadan has adjourned the N500 million damages case of unlawful assault instituted by four journalists against the former Chief Press Secretary to the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Wale Ojo-Lanre and former Secretary to the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), Cosmos Oni, to March 22nd, 2012.
Having heard that the defendants had not filed any defence or pleadings since almost three years that the matter commenced, Justice Iyabo Oyelaran adjourned the case on Monday, saying the court would hear the claimants' application for setting the suit down for hearing and judgment against Ojo- Lanre, the former CPS to Chief Segun Oni and Cosmos Oni in default of filing their defence to the suit instituted against them.
It would be recalled that on July 25, 2009, Messrs Sola Adeyemo, Ademola Babalaola (both of the Nigerian Compass), Dele Ogunsola (of the Daily Independent) and Ade Adeloye (then of Herald Newspaper but now of the Nigerian Pilot) were assaulted and brutalised by the policemen numbering about 10 at the monthly meeting of the union going on at the Iyaganku Press Centre based on the false distress call made by Ojo-Lanre and Oni, to the Divisional Police Officer, Iyaganku Police Station.
Ojo-Lanre, the then Chairman with Oni, Secretary, had informed the police that the claimants were armed robbers and had invaded Iyaganku Press Centre.
Responding, the armed security men stormed the venue and treated the claimants accordingly before realizing that the alarm was a false one.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, counsel to Ojo-Lanre and Oni, M.T. Usman, sought the permission of the court to move the preliminary objection bothering on the claim that they were not served with the Claimants /Applicants' statement of claim but, counsel to the applicants, Mrs Adenike Eweniyi urged the court not to allow the defendants' counsel to move the application, saying the case had moved beyond that level.
Eweniyi of the Otunba Kunle Kalejaye (SAN) chambers, submitted that there were proofs of service in the court's file indicating that the defendants were duly served.
In the meantime, the Claimants' counsel had filed a counter-affidavit and written address in response to the preliminary objection.
Justice Oyelaran agreed with the claimants' counsel that the case had gone beyond the present application being sought to be moved by the defendants' counsel, emphasizing that an order for substituted service had earlier been granted by the court when the court was informed by affidavit evidence that the 1st defendant could not be served because he was CPS in Ekiti State.
On discovering that the defendants had not filed their defence, Justice Oyelaran declared that under the Oyo State Civil Procedure Rules 2010, the defendants could not move the application in the absence of filing a defence to the claimants' claim.
The court therefore frowned at the lackadaisical attitude of the defendants in the case, saying all the adjournments had been at the instance of the defendants.
"You are in default, absolute default, total default. I have granted too much indulgence just to ensure that justice is done. What you have done is just to waste the time of the court. Based on the facts before me, you have been served. File your pleadings before the next adjourned date or I will strike out the preliminary objection", the Judge ordered Usman.