Robert Igbinedion, the lawyer suing on behalf of the teenage girl humiliated with a dirty slap by Bishop Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church in a video which gained worldwide publicity, has filed an appeal challenging the judgement which gave victory to the wealthy Bishop in an Ogun State High Court two months ago. The appeal (Suit No: MT/73/2012) stated that the trial Judge, Mobolaji Ojo placed unnecessary and undue reliance on technicalities of the case to the detriment of the suit.
Mr. Igbinedion said that the judge erred in law by concluding that a better affidavit, which he filed to replace the former one after a preliminary objection was raised by the respondent, contained fresh issues.
The appeal faulted the grounds on which the judgement was held. The appeal stated that plaintiff lawyer did not necessarily need to prove his presence during the particular service or show the date or time since he had already presented video evidence that the incident actually took place. Igbinedion also said he did not necessarily need to present the victim, whom he represented as ‘Miss Justice’ in the suit, before pursuing the case.
“The Learned Judge failed to advert his mind to the Preamble to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009 which obliged him to encourage and welcome public interest litigations in the human rights field on behalf of the poor, the illiterate and the vulnerable, amongst others”, the appeal statement read.
It also challenged the judgement for not ratifying the issue of the court’s jurisdiction on the matter as raised by the respondents’ counsel in a preliminary objection before going ahead to dismiss the suit. “Where the Respondent is challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the Application, he may apply to the court for an order striking out the suit or setting aside the proceeding”, it said.
The lawyer also noted that the judge held that the victim of the slap was a ‘fictitious character’ who is non-existent and has no standing,
In that judgement, the judge asked: “Who is Miss Justice, how old is she, what is her standing in life, what are her particulars? The court must be able to ascertain and cannot be left to speculate on the identity of the person whose right is being sought to be enforced by declaratory orders, award of damages and injunctive orders. The court cannot issue and make order in favour of a ghost victim/applicant. If I may ask, should this action succeed, who is going to be the beneficiary of the monetary award sought.”
Mr. Igbinedion in the appeal suggested that that view, by the judge is irrelevant, discriminatory and deliberately calculated to arrive at a favourable decision.
He wrote: “The Appellant has by his further and better Affidavit given many privileged reasons why he cannot disclose the complete identity of the victim to prevent her from further harm.
“The learned trial Judge failed to advert his mind to the provisions of Rules 32(2) (b) which states that in presenting a matter to the court, a lawyer shall disclose the identity of his clients he represents and the person who briefed him unless such disclosure is priviledged or irrelevant”, the appealant stated further.
A video footage shows Bishop Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church, also known as Winners Chapel, during an alter call in his church at Ota, where, during an alter call, accused a teenage girl of witchcraft and slapped her across the face for declining witchcraft but saying she was a ‘witch-for-Christ.’ The video was uploaded online and spread cross all social media sites.
The Bishop during another service in his Church, following the slapping footage going viral, boasted about the act and claimed he was a ‘Baba witch’ himself.
The incident resulted in a cyber war between those loyal to the Bishop and others who believed the act was wrong. Mr. Igbinedion filed the suit challenging the Bishop’s slapping of the young lady, asking the Bishop to compensate the humiliated girl, with the sum of N2billion.
The judgement of 12th July at a High Court in Ota favored Bishop Oyedepo. The judgement had held that ‘Miss Justice’ was a ghost plaintiff and that the sum demanded cannot be paid to a ghost applicant.
Mr. Igbinedion’s appeal suit claims it is not an issue requiring the judge to determine how the counsel in the case would share in the compensation of N2billion.
“It is ultra vires the power of the trial judge in determining a fundamental right application to question how a victim who is ably represented by counsel will get proceed of judgment and go ahead to dismiss the suit on that ground,” the appeal statement.
It would be recalled that in another case, Mr. Igbinedion successfully prosecuted Reverend King, who was then sent to Kirikiri Prison.