ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Pointblanknews.com, Mr Jackson Ude, has dismissed claims by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, that he won him in the defamation suit in the United States court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Ude also contended that the claim by Sylva’s supporters that the minister emerged victorious in the out-of-court agreement was false, criminal and malicious.
Prior to Ude’s reaction, an electronic copy of a settlement agreement entered by Sylva and himself to discontinue the case filed in the court presided over by Joseph F. Leeson Jr. claimed that Ude agreed to take down, delete and destroy all articles and publications alleging any criminal or other misconduct by Sylva appearing on Pointblank News website and its social media accounts.
But Ude in a statement on Monday via electronic mail, argued that the claims of victory by Sylva was spurious, criminal, malicious, defamatory and disparaging,
The statement read in part: “My attention has been drawn to the news report being allegedly sponsored by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylvia, in which he claimed victory in a United States Eastern District Court, Pennsylvania.
“Nothing can be more ridiculous than such a claim when indeed the Minister was the one who instituted a defamatory case against me, turned around twice to request for an out-of-court settlement through his attorney, used leaders in Nigeria to reach out to me to accept an out of court settlement.
“In 2021, Sylva came to the U.S court and filed a lawsuit against me for defamation. The case started in February 2022. After discoveries were conducted by attorneys for both Sylva and me.
“Sylva appeared for deposition via zoom and was interrogated for close to five hours in May. I was also deposed for about three hours. After the deposition, Sylva through his lawyers approached my lawyers for an out-of-court settlement.
“The first request was denied. He came back again on July 22, 2022 and made another request. This time, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, whom I have tremendous respect for, has been reaching out to me on behalf of Sylva, requesting I accept to settle the matter out of court.”
The publisher said that after going through Sylva’s requests and adjustments made by his lawyers, he accepted the request in good faith and directed his attorneys to proceed with it.
Ude said Judge Joseph Leeson Jr. of the Eastern District court, thereafter, set up a settlement conference hearing for August 11, 2022.
He said the judge also set September 14 as the Jury trial date if they did not reach an agreement to settle, noting that he attended the hearing as ordered by the Judge but Sylva pleaded with the Judge to allow him to appear via zoom.
He added: “At the settlement hearing, we both went through the agreements. The Magistrates’ Judge, Hon. Pamela Carlos, supervised the process and both parties agreed and signed off the settlement agreement. No judgment was pronounced. Sylva was not pronounced winner as no trial in the case ever happened.
“In plain language, the suit did not proceed to trial or judgement stage. It was simply a settlement out of court which Sylva, not me, sought.
“It is, therefore, a violation of the Judge’s order for Sylva to sponsor defamatory, malicious and disparaging publications against my person and that of Pointblanknews.com in order to whitewash himself. In due course, he would return to the U.S court to explain his actions.
“The amateur attempt to hoodwink the public and spread lies are some of the instruments politicians have employed to deceive Nigerians. Again, Timipre Sylva never won any defamatory case. How can you be a winner in a case that never went to trial? Otherwise, Sylva should show to the public a judgement he obtained from the U.S Court declaring him a winner. It is pure lies from the pit of hell!”