Nigeria: Anglican Priests in Court for Defamation

Benin, Nigeria - Three Anglican priests and another member of the church have been arraigned before a Benin Magistrate's Court on a five count charge of defamation.

The accused persons were alleged to have conspired to publish defamatory matters that the Anglican Bishop of Benin Diocese, Rt. Rev. Peter Imaseun impregnated and thereafter procured an abortion on one Gladys Adetokhai, an offense likely to cause the breach of peace and punishable under sections 516, 375, 249(d) of the criminal code.

The case with charge No. MEV 714 2009 had as accused persons, Rev. Akhere Oriakhi, Evangelist Victoria Lawani, Rev. Nosa Omeregie and Mercy Oriakhi, all of the Anglican Communion in Benin city.

The 4th accused person, (Mercy Oriakhi), standing trial on one count charge, was said to have conspired to prevent and defeat the cause of justice by removing printed defamatory documents from the house when the police came to conduct a search with a warrant, an offense punishable under section 126(1) of the criminal code.

The accused persons pleaded not guilty to any of the charges. The case which was first filed in 2008 with only one accused person arraigned in the court, was however substituted by the Prosecutor, O.S.Oga , who now brought four accused persons for trial before Magistrate Willy Aziegdemwin on a five count charge.

Testifying before the court, the first prosecution witness and an employee of the University of Benin, Gladys Adetokhai said the Bishop's wife informed her that the thirrd accused person (Rev. Nosa Omeregie) had a dream concerning her.

She also denied being impregnated by the Bishop in November 2006 and August 2007, as she told the Court that she was only admitted in December 2006 at the University Of Benin Health Center when she was sick.

Similarly, the second prosecution witness, Pat Osaigbovo, a nurse by Profession told the court that three of them, Gladys and Rev. Omeregie were all living at the Bishops court, along Evbiemwen street in Benin city but Rev. Nosa was transferred out of Benin before the rumour of the pregnancy came up. She also denied ever seeing any of the accused persons spreading the rumour of the said scandal in public places or in the church. The case was adjourned to May 13, 2009 for further hearing.