An Ogun State High Court, Monday, has adjourned the proceeding in the N2 billion suit instituted against Bishop David Oyedepo by Lagos lawyer, Mr. Robert Igbinedion over the alleged slapping of a female member of his congregation till Wednesday, 13 June.
The adjournment was sequel to a letter sent to the court by Oyedepo’s lawyer, Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), saying he is unable to attend the proceeding because of a matter he is handling before the Supreme Court.
He apologised to the court over the development and requested for an adjournment to Wednesday this week.
Mr. Igbinedion did not oppose the request but asked for cost, noting that it was at the instance of the learned SAN that the matter was fixed for today.
The judge upheld his argument and awarded a cost of N10,000 against the defendant.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till 13 June, 2012 for submission of final address.
The multi-billionaire pastor secured the services of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr. Dele Adesina to defend the matter which was filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Robert Igbinedion, in April on behalf of the young lady.
Mr. Igbinedion in the suit sought for the enforcement of the lady’s fundamental rights to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, human dignity, fair hearing, and freedom from discrimination.
He also prayed the court to award the sum of N2 billion as ‘general and exemplary damages’ against the bishop as well as compel him to publish a public apology in two national dailies and one international satellite television.
Initially when the matter was filed, two members of the church, F.B. Agbanwu, the church solicitor and Olugbenga Adeboye, a senior legal officer in the church, filed a preliminary objection on behalf of Bishop Oyedepo.
However, at the last adjourned date, Mr. Dele Adesina in company of other lawyers announced his appearance in the matter and informed the court that he had taken over the matter.
In his amended counter affidavit to the suit, Mr. Adesina urged that the application filed by Mr. Igbinedion is frivolous, vexatious, gold digging and urged the honourable court to strike out the application.
He further stated that the suit by Mr. Igbinedion is an attempt to blackmail and defame Bishop Oyedepo and his church.
"The 2nd respondent (the church) is a religious congregation where all they do is to worship and glorify God Almighty and not to indulge in any assault, oppression and discrimination of any person," he urged.
He added that the cause of action as disclosed by Mr. Igbinedion does not fall within the ambit of the Nigerian constitution or the African Charter on Human Rights.
"From the suit as framed by the applicant, it is clear that he gave the name, quote and unquote ‘Miss Justice’ to whosoever on behalf of whom this action is brought.
"Flowing from above, it is our submission that there is nothing to show the existence of ‘Miss Justice’…." He said.
"We humbly submit that ‘Miss Justice’ is a fictitious person, not capable of being represented in court. For the applicant to establish that he is suing on behalf of another person, that person must be determinable and identifiable," he added.
In his further affidavit to support his motion, Mr. Igbinedion maintained that despite claims to the contrary by the respondents’ lawyers, he is a human rights activist "with vast experience in the field." Mr. Igbinedion also stated that Bishop Oyedepo’s citing of the biblical verse "suffer not the witch to live" during the church service is a threat to the life of the young lady (Miss Justice) capable of inciting her murder by his numerous followers who obey his command.
"We coined the name ‘Miss Justice’ and withheld her name as the young Nigerian girl cannot afford to have her name on the court process because of her age, sex and safety in a public trial," Mr. Igbinedion said.
On the claims by the respondent that ‘Miss Justice’ is not a living person, Mr. Igbinedion stated that there is "as well nothing to show that Bishop Oyedepo is still alive. We are to take his (Bishop Oyedepo) submissions and position through his legal representative and so is the case of the poor Nigerian girl (Miss Justice)."