The last might not have been heard of the scandal that rocked Edo State Government recently over the rice allocated to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the State, as Mr Taiwo Akerele, Chief of Staff to Governor Godwin Obaseki, dragged The Guardian before a Benin High Court.
Akerele, in the suit filed on his behalf by his lawyer and twin brother, Kehinde Akerele, is seeking what he called “general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel” over a publication by the newspaper with the title, “Probe of alleged diversion of relief materials begins in Edo.”
According to the publication, which was also reported by many local and national dailies, 4, 781 bags of rice out of the 6,822 ostensibly approved for the IDP’s Camp at Uhogwa in Ovia North East Local Government Area of the State by the Federal Government, was reported missing.
Following the controversy generated by the rice scandal, the Edo State Command of Nigeria Police invited the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, for questioning, following his insistence that the state government must account for the missing bags of rice.
But the state government insisted that the rice was judiciously disbursed, saying that all the bags of rice and other items, including shoes, were distributed to the IDPs and other orphanage homes in the State, apart from the ones that were damaged in storage before they were allocated.
Mr. Crusoe Osagie, the Media Adviser to Obaseki, had responded that “the allegation is laughable and completely false and is a design of detractors to smear the image of a performing government. They have tried and failed on all other fronts, now they have stooped lower to a commodity as cheap as rice.”
However, Akerele in his four-paragraph claims, is praying the court for an order for the newspaper to pay him a the sum of N250 million as general and/or exemplary or aggravated damages for libel and another N2.5 million as costs.
In addition, Akerele is asking the court for an order to compel The Guardian to publish a “well-worded” retraction and apology in a similarly conspicuous manner, which must also be published in another newspaper.
Hearing in the case has been fixed for June 19, 2018.