Rivers chief, Journalist docked over court contempt

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

A Rivers State High sitting in Port Harcourt, yesterday, docked a Kalabari chief, Gaskin Sobrasuaipiri, and a Port Harcourt based journalist for alleged contempt of court. 

A Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Prince Gbogboade Akitoye, recently accused his client, Chief Gaskin Sobrasuaipiri, of blackmail and  making a malicious publication against him.

Sobrasuaipiri had dragged his counsel to Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt, claiming the sum of N100 million for being “general damages for the defender’s (Akitoye) negligence and trauma/pain the claimant (Sobrasuaipiri) has suffered as a result of the unprofessional handling of the claimant’s Will by the defendant”.

The claimant had, in his Statement of claim, asked for an order of the court directing the defendant to return the file copy of the Will in his (defendant) possession because the Will has been revoked.

But, the defendant filed a counter claim denying the claimant’s allegations contained in his Statement of Claims.

Akitoye, in his Statement of Defence, said that the claimant, in 2019,  engaged him to prepare his last Will and agreed to pay the sum of N3.5 million for the service.

According to Akitoye, his client (claimant) deposited the sum of N200,000.00, with a promise to bring the balance of N3.3 million at a later date.

Meanwhile, the proceeding was supposed to be for pre-trial; but because counsels in the matter between the claimant, Sobrasuaipiri, and defendant, Prince Gbogboade Akitoye, wanted to amend their processes, the claimant’s lawyer asked for adjournment.

Meanwhile, counsel for the defendant, C. Chikere, reminded the court of a publication by the defendant, which was against the rights of his client.

Chikere told the court that the claimant was in court with a journalist and Sobrasuaipiri admitted and the court got infuriated.

The journalist was ordered to enter the dock, preparedly for contempt of court proceedings, he was sworn in and led in evidence as to his mission in court.

The judge, Justice Okogbulem Gbasam, of High Court 25, sort who invited the journalist to court and he admitted that it was the claimant.

The court ordered him to step out and invited the claimant to the dock, and he was led in evidence, also preparedly for contempt of court.

At this point, Sobrasuaipiri’s counsel, Mr.  Erasmus Dike, started pleading with the court for leniency. 

The bar of over 30 lawyers, also begged the court not to send the chief and journalist to prison, which, if it has done, would attract three months imprisonment.

However, the judge warned the claimant and reporter to desist from coming to court until the case is dispensed. 

The matter was adjourned till February 26, 2021.

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