By Ikhili Ebalu, Benin City
There was a twist yesterday at the Evbuoariaria Magistrate Court sitting in Benin City as Office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State prayed the court to take over the case of an alleged defamation involving the State Commissioner of police against one barrister Ogedengbe Oiseoruemi Ayodeji Uduanghe.
It will be recall that the accused legal counsel was recently arraigned by the police before Chief Magistrate (Mrs.) I.U. Iyoha on a four-count charge bothering on alleged defamation against the authorities of Edo University, Iyamho in Suit No. MOR/373c/2019.
The police amongst others alleged before the court: “That you Ogedengbe Oiseoruemi Ayodeji Uduanghe ‘m’, and others now at large, on the same date, time and place, in the aforesaid Magisterial District, with intent to injure the reputation of Edo University Iyamho, did knowingly and unlawfully publish a defamatory matter via your facebook account name “Ogedengbe Oiseoruemi Ayodeji Uduanghe” titled Press Statement: Friday 21st June 2019 NUC revokes Edo University Iyamho operating licences”, knowing same to be defamatory and thereby committed an offence contrary to section and punishable under section 375 of the Criminal Code Cap 48 Vol. 11 Laws of the defunct Bendel State of Nigeria 19976 as applicable in Edo State.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the chareges.
Upon resumption of hearing on Tuesday, a counsel in the office of the Attorney General, Mr. Ojo informed the court on the office’s resolved to take over proceedings, maintaining that it was in pursuance of Section 221 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and acting within the habit of the law.
According to him, Section 211 (1) (3) says, “The Attorney General of a State shall have power
(a) “to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria other than a court-martial in respect of any offence created by or under any law of the House of Assembly;
(b) “to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person;
(c) “to discontinue at any stage before judgement is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person
(2) “The powers conferred upon the Attorney-General of a state under subsection 1 of this section may be exercised by him in person or through officers of his department
(3)” In exercising his powers under this section, the attorney-General of a state shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process,”.
After listening to the request of the Attorney General of the state especially as there was no objection from the police neither the led defense counsel, Prince Peter Uwadiae, Esq, Magistrate Iyoha, However, granted the application of the Attorney General, just as she adjourned the case to September 12, 2019 for further hearing.
Speaking with newsmem shortly after proceedings, the Public Relations Officer, Edo University, Iyamho, Barr. Betcher Ekhosuhun whole aligned himself completely with the submission of the state counsel especially as he opined was in pursuant of Section 211 of the constitution, said the position of the state attorney general in the case has further affirmed that the Editor University is solely owned by Edo State Government.
Barr. Ekhosuhun, however, advised members of the public to desist from spreading falsehood, maintaining that the law will always catch up with falsehood.