The Social media and the local newspapers in Owerri, Imo State has been abuzz with claims and counter claims between the publisher of an Owerri based newspaper, Community Watchdog Comrade Precious Nwadike and some social media agents of Chief of Staff, Government House, Owerri, Chief Uche Nwosu.
A local tabloid, The Nigerian Horn had also reported on the judgment albeit in favour of the Chief of Staff.
Nwosu’s social media agents had posted on facebook that an Owerri High Court had ordered the Publisher of Community Watchdog Newspaper, Comrade Precious Nwadike to pay N120,000,000 compensation to Chief Nwosu as damages for “ his failure to prove beyond beyond reasonable doubt, a fictitious and damaging story he published against the Chief of Staff and the Imo State Government”
A well known facebook agent of the Imo State Government, Onwusoanya FCC Jones, had posted “ The judge was convinced by the argument of Barrister Onwukaike Paschal who brought the case Pro Bono on behalf of the Chief of Staff, that the Chief of Staff did not keep any bailout fund in his house, neither did any such money get missing from his house. The publication was therefore dismissed as malicious, fictitious and vindictive”
But the Publisher in a statement signed by his Editor, Mr. Bonny Ajiogu, said “the publication is rather misleading, unwarranted and provocative considering the fact that this was not exactly what transpired in court on that Wednesday.
“Our first reaction to this publication which also featured on Announcer Express Newspaper was, to ignore the said misleading reports”
We hereby publish the claims and counter claims of the two parties.
FCC Onwusoanya Jones, a known social media agent of the Imo State Government had posted on facebook:
“An acclaimed publisher and editor-in-chief of a local newspaper, Community Watchdog Newspaper has been ordered by a court in Owerri, the Imo State capital to pay the sum of 120,000,000 in damages to the Chief of Staff to the Imo State Government, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu as a result of his failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt, a fictitious and damaging story he published against the Chief of Staff and the Imo State Government.
“The judge was convinced by the argument of Barrister Onwukaike Paschal who brought the case Pro Bono on behalf of the Chief of Staff, that the Chief of Staff did not keep any bailout fund in his house, neither did any such money get missing from his house. The publication was therefore dismissed as malicious, fictitious and vindictive.
“The acclaimed publisher, who criminally took over a newspaper owned by Orluzurumee Youth Assembly after his tenure as the President of the socio-cultural association expired has also been ordered by the court to publish a retraction of the story in four national dailies and four local dailies including Watchdog newspaper and Trumpeta newspaper.
“According to usually reliable sources, Mr Nwadike Precious U allegedly targeted the Chief of Staff for blackmail after he allegedly failed to ‘con’ the youthful Chief aide to the Imo governor of some undisclosed amount of money using his office as the President of Orluzurumee Youth Assembly (O. Y. A). The same sources also squealed that the Orlu born youth who has not engaged in any meaningful job or business since he graduated from the University specializes in forming one integrity challenged association or another with the sole intent of making money from politicians and the well-placed in the society by presenting frivolous proposals to them.
“The Community Watchdog newspaper is one of the assets of Orluzurumee Youth Assembly, which he diverted to personal use. The first ever car he drove in his life, a Toyota Sienna van is also the property of the association. After reluctantly conducting an election in which he anointed a stooge to succeed him, the acclaimed youth activist and our MUMUDONDO promoter has failed to hand over most of the association’s properties to the new executive of the association. He was said to have handed over skeleton of the Sienna van, after scavenging most valuable parts in the vehicle.
“He failed to attend the inauguration and handover ceremony of the new executive. There is said to be some wrangling within the association for a proper audit to be conducted on the activities of the association, but he is hell bent on frustrating every such effort.
Response of Comrade Nwadike as contained in a statement signed by Editor of Community Watchdog Newspaper, Bonny Ajiogu
RE: “COURT ORDERS WATCHDOG NEWSPAPER TO PAY UCHE NWOSU N126 MILLION FOR LIBEL”
“The attention of the management and the editorial team of Community Watchdog Newspapers has been drawn to a front page publication of Horn Newspaper edition of Wednesday June 14th, 2017, stating that the High Court in Owerri presided over by Justice Chukwuemeka Chikeka, had slammed a N126 million damage, against the Newspaper without stating that it was a judgment by default. According to the Newspaper,it was as result of Comrade Precious Nwadike’s inability to “defend his libelous publication against Uche Nwosu”. The publication is rather misleading, unwarranted and provocative considering the fact that this was not exactly what transpired in court on that Wednesday. Our first reaction to this publication which also featured on announcer express Newspaper was, to ignore the said misleading reports.
“However, considering the fact that the controversial bailout fund released to Imo State late 2015, is the subject matter which of course is of public interest, being that the public fund, meant for the welfare and development of Imo State was grossly misappropriated hence our painstaking reports. Since we owe the Society the onerous responsibility to continue to hold those in public offices and government accountable to the people, especially in our efforts as the watchdog of the society, and in line with section 22 of the 1999 constitution which states that the Press must hold all such public officers accountable to the masses, we deem it very necessary, to state as follows;
It will interest the public to recall that on the 10th of December, 2015, armed Policemen driven in four (4) different Prado Jeeps, had arrested Comrade Precious Nwadike in his capacity as the publisher and the editor in chief of Watchdog Newspapers along with other staff. Shortly after that, the police arraigned him in court with an intention to send him to jail on trumped up charges of criminal defamation, citing laws of Eastern Nigeria which are no longer consistent with the 1999 constitution and lately the freedom of information Law 2015.
“Thereafter, having failed woefully to hound the publisher of watchdog Newspapers into prison as the judge having looked at the merit of the matter, granted him bail on grounds that there was no reason to remand him in prison custody as canvassed. Subsequently Uche Nwosu through his lawyer, Bar. P.A. Onwukaike in suit No. How572/2015, instituted yet another case of defamation against the Newspaper all in a bid to close down the Community watchdog Newspaper house.
“The aforementioned lawyer and counsel to Uche Nwosu, Barr. Paschal Onwukaike was later appointed Transitional Committee (T.C) chairman of Nkwerre L.G.A, for over one year even without any members inaugurated alongside with him thus serving as a sole administrator for the period under review. This is believed to be a ploy for the said Barr. Paschal Onwukaike to fund the legal battles instituted against community watchdog by Uche Nwosu from monthly allocations of Nkwere LGA. Realizing how desperate Uche Nwosu was in his various attempts to close down the Newspaper, the management, believing that the courts are the last hope of the common man, resorted to an Owerri High court to seek for the enforcement of their fundamental Human Rights and that of the publisher/editor in chief, a case that is presently subsisting before the same Justice Chikeka in suit No. How/4/2016. In our continued efforts to wriggle out from the orchestrated desperate bids by Uche Nwosu to use Government apparatus available to his father-in-law to imprison the Publisher and editors of watchdog Newspapers, thus concentrating more efforts, time and resources on the suits already pending at the magistrate court and that of the Fundamental Human Rights at the High Court, we were unable to file a defense on the case of defamation at the High Court, within the stipulated period required by law. We had already entered defense on this case but could not get through with so many other issues to see the court for payment of certain fees which was the reason that the court gave a default judgement which is liable to be set aside. It was against this backdrop that Justice Chukwuemeka- chikeka of Owerri High Court, who is equally handling the case on Fundamental Human Rights, Tuesday June 13th, 2017, entered a default judgment against the Community Watchdog Newspapers for failure to pay the accumulated penalties and regularize service.
“Finally, it is on record that Community Watchdog Newspapers had previously published a comprehensive report on the case of defamation over our whistle blowing responsibility as the watchdog of the society thus informing the society how a cook working with Uche Nwosu had eloped with billions of Naira suspected to be part of the N26.8 bilion Imo bailout fund to which Committee Nwosu was the chairman. As such the issue of not been able to defend the various allegations for which the then Imo State Police commissioner had admitted evacuating safe, could never be the reason. It is also on record that shortly after our publications, there have been other revelations and testimonies vindicating watchdog Newspapers, that indeed the #26.8billions Imo State bailout funds were actually diverted or out rightly stolen by the custodians. It will be recalled that on March 2th, 2016,operatives of Economic Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC) arrested three top government officials in connection with their findings that #2billion out of the bailout funds were diverted. The Governor of Imo State OWELLE ROCHAS OKOROCHA had in a press briefing admitted using part of the bailout funds in settling bank loans which according to him were secured to pay salaries of workers, which salaries from records available have not been paid as at date. The ICPC, which later investigated the utilization of the bailout funds, had revealed that the funds were misappropriated and diverted into a certain government house project account and a micro finance bank which was hurriedly in-corporated to make it have a semblance of legitimacy. This was Contrary to the directives that the bailout funds must be utilized for the settlement of outstanding salaries, allowances and pensions. It is on this note that we urge the Imo citizens and indeed all Nigerians to ignore and discountenance with the provocative publications implying that we were incapable of defending our publications that part of the diverted bailout fund was stolen from Uche Nwosu’s house. We are presently making efforts to prove our case with all the overwhelming evidences at our disposal believing that the court is the last hope and bastion of the common man in line with the latter our lawyers have filed the motion for stay of execution of the judgment notwithstanding the fact a government had never observed the rule of law might eventually come after us.
Chief Bonny Ajogu (KSJI)