Alleged Libel Suit: Court Strikes Out MOUAU Staff Suit Against Reckoner Newspaper

A High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, has struck out a suit filed by some staff of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike ( MOUAU) against Eastern Reckoner newspaper for an alleged libelous publication.

In striking out the suit that was filed in 2017, Justice Ogechi Okeahialam of Court Three ruled that the suit was incompetent because the necessary procedure in filling the matter was not followed.

The court held that, contrary to the rule, that stipulates that the counsel must sign the suit along with his names and address, the suit filed by the staff of MOUAU did not follow the process.

The court held that the Supreme Court had expressly ruled that any suit without the signature, name, and address of the counsels to the parties was invalid, therefore incompetent.

It thereafter struck out the suit accordingly.

Eighteen staff of MOUAU had in Suit No HU/ 184/2017 taken Reckoner newspaper and two of the Directors, Comrade Ogbonnaya Iheaka and Mr Innocent Kalu to court alleging defamatory statement against their persons.

They averred that the Eastern Reckoner newspaper had on its front page edition of Monday ,August 28,2017 defamed them by its headline that read” MOUAU set to demote 28 professors “

But in their defence, the newspaper and its directors submitted that what it published was the truth since the information emanated from the university which affirmed that the promotion of the affected staff to the rank of professors was fraught with non compliance to the rules governing promotion .

Consequently, in a letter dated May 20th, 2019, the University reverted the affected staff to their former positions.

In the letter with reference number MOUAU/REG/PASM/SS/1537/ VOL 1 , entitled Council Decision on Staff Audit/Proper Placement, the 28 staff were asked to revert to their positions before the said promotion.

The letter by the university automatically validated the publication by Eastern Reckoner, thus questioning why the affected staff were still in court.

Reacting to the judgment, Mr Innocent Kalu noted that the MOUAU staff ought not to have gone to court at all since what the newspaper published was the truth.

He said neither the newspaper nor the directors have any personal issues with the staff but were just carrying out their constitutional responsibility of diseminating information.

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