***Their suit is frivolous and smacks of desperation, says Coalition Leader
For allegedly defaming its character while speaking about Keren-Happuch Akphagher, its boarding student who died following health complications caused by rape at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Law Week, Premiere Academy, Lugbe, has filed a suit against leader of the Coalition of Gender Based Violence Responders (CGBVR), Lemmy Ughegbe for defamation.
Vexed by Ughegbe’s rousing speech at the said Law Week on 30th of August 2022, whereof he named it (school) as prime suspect and invited lawyers to join the coalition in pressuring the police to fish out the culprit, the embattled school has asked an Abuja High Court to award N500 Million as damages against him.
In the said suit filed by Premiere Academy’s legal team headed by Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), which includes his wife, Chief (Mrs) Victoria Awomolo (SAN) and Eyitayo Fatogun (SAN), the school is also asking the court to bar the Child and Gender Rights Advocate (Ughegbe) from making further public statements with regards to the alleged rape and death of Keren-Happuch till further notice.
Premiere Academy argued that “if the court fails to bar Ughegbe, it (Premiere Academy, Lugbe) will suffer irreparable damage to its character.”
Following medical reports that the 14 year old girl was raped in Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja and a condom left inside her, which infected her with sepsis, spiked her blood sugar leading to her death due to hyperglycemia on the 22nd of June 2021, Ughegbe has been in the forefront of seeking justice for the deceased and her family..
Consequently, on the 7th of December 2021, the House of Representatives ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to conduct DNA test for all the male staff of the school and march DNA each with the dead spermatozoa found in Keren’s urine and resolved to set up an Investigative Panel to conduct public hearing into the matter.
But in a-26 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mr. Christopher Akinsowon, who was acting Principal of Premiere Academy before and after Keren died on 22nd of June 2021 and now the school’s Director of Academics and Administration, he complained about the speech delivered by the Coalition Leader at the NBA Abuja Branch (Unity Bar) 2021 Law Week while attending as a guest panelist.
He said the speech delivered by Ughegbe defamed Premiere Academy and that was the reason the school instructed its lawyers to sue him for defamation in other to stop him from further damaging its image.
In paragraph, 17, Akinsowon averred thus: “That the respondent (Ughegbe) was seen and heard saying thus:
“I seek leave of Mr. Chairman to adopt the protocol as haven been established and deem same as having been observed by yours truly. As it’s traditional for me since June 22nd, 2021, I cease every opportunity of a public forum to do one thing, one pledge that I made to the coalition of Gender Based Violence Responders which I lead.
“On June 22nd, 2021, the inalienable right of 14 year old Keren-Happuch Akpagher was taken away because she was raped, condom left inside of her, the condom eventually infected her with sepsis, which triggered her diabetic condition in such a bad way and we eventually lost her. And I have said that at every forum I get, I would spend, at least, two minutes to talk about her. She was a boarding house student at Premiere Academy, Lugbe. We are talking Human Rights, so this is even auspicious. Unfortunately, we have issues with systems not being in place.
“If you followed the news very well all this while, you would find that at some point because the coalition said this is one Child Sexual Abuse that will not just be a mere data and we must get the perpetrator, unfortunately, the FCT Police Command misadvised and misdirected itself on this matter, to the point because we started talking and holding them to account, they decided to accuse me of inciting public disturbance. The primary suspect – Premiere Academy is allowed to speak and do press conferences, but someone licensed as a Gender and Child Rights Advocate is accused of that? .
“We have fought it using the instrumentality of the media and because of that, we have put petitions in place and today we are making progress with that case and I urge lawyers to join in this effort because in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu – “if you are neutral in the situation of injustice, then you have taken sides with the oppressor.”
When reporters called Ughegbe for his reaction to the suit, he couldn’t contain his amusement as he laughed for over five minutes before responding thus:
“I’m so sorry for laughing so hard and taking your time. They want to use cheap legal action to bully me into silence and breach my constitutional right to hold and express my opinion? Tell them they have made a wrong call and have failed. But this is really laughable. I am yet to receive the court process, but a friend of mine said he received it on my behalf. Their case is built primarily on my speech at the NBA Abuja Branch 2021 Law Week. They are unhappy that I am calling lawyers to join us to demand for justice. What is defamatory about that? It is my considered view that this suit is not just frivolous and lacking in merit, but it is also vexatious. But I will not be vexed because I understand their frustrations and therefore what I have for them is sympathy. Why will a school be unhappy and jittery that I am calling out stakeholders to join us to seek justice? Clear conscience should not be offended or saddened by my call. The school, more than anyone else, should even be eager to join us to invite scrutiny of its operation vis-à-vis Keren-Happuch”, Ughegbe stated.
He also expressed his eagerness for the Investigative Panel of the House of Representatives to begin public hearing on the matter, adding that “we shall open a giant can of worms. We have credible intelligence and the world will shudder at the revelations during the public hearing meant to commence in January 2022. Our team of 7 Senior Advocates have been well briefed and armed with credible evidence to help the Panel come to a far-reaching conclusion.”
Appeal Court Sacks Nasarawa speaker
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has sacked the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a judgement delivered on Tuesday, the court declared the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Hon. Sa’ad Abdullahi Ibrahim (Turakin-Opanda), as the rightful winner of the election for Umaisha/Ugya State Constituency.
Appeal Court affirms Hyacinth Alia’s victory as Benue Governor
The Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, on Monday, upheld the election of Hyacinth Alia as declared by INEC after the March 18th, 2023 election as governor of Benue State
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the March 18 governorship election, Titus Uba, had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the tribunal that upheld Alia’s election.
At the tribunal, Uba accused Alia’s deputy, Samuel Ode, of presenting a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) contrary to Section 182(1)(j) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
He also alleged that Alia’s name was submitted less than 180 days before the election date, and Ode was also not submitted to INEC after the party conducted a further re-run primary election.
A three-member panel of the tribunal, headed by Justice Ibrahim Karaye, dismissed the petition on the ground that it was a pre-election matter and was statute-barred.
Ruling on the appeal on Monday, the appeal court’s three-member panel led by Justice Onyekachi Aja Otisi held that Uba failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations of forgery against Ode
As long as God remains on the throne our mandate will be preserved, says Mutfwang
Plateau Governor, Caled Mutfwang spoken with confidence that as long as God remains on the throne, the people’s mandate will be preserved and protected as he reiterated his commitment to the rule of law, while assuring the people that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Mutfwang who was reacting to the Appeal Court judgement that sacked him on Sunday described the verdict as a temporary setback that will not deter him from repositioning the state.
“We have unwavering faith in the judiciary and the Constitution of Nigeria,” he added.
The Governor said he has instructed his legal team to file an appeal at the Supreme Court, admonishing citizens of the state and PDP supporters to remain calm.
Mutfwang gave the indication in a press statement signed by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Gyang Bere, expressed optimism that the mandate overwhelmingly given to him by the citizens would be restored.
Mutfwang polled 525,299 votes in the March 18 governorship election in the state, while Goshwe polled 481,370 votes.
Goshwe challenged the victory of Mutfwang at the tribunal, claiming that the Governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his Party, insisting there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the election.
In a unanimous decision, a three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justice R. Irele-Ifijeh dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.
Displeased with the judgment, the APC candidate appealed the tribunal judgment.
The appellate court ruling on Sunday, led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, held that the PDP did not validly sponsor the Governor during the election.
She held that the Party violated a court order to conduct a valid Congress in that state’s 17 Local Government Areas.
She said there was no evidence that the PDP complied with a subsisting High Court order which had directed it to conduct a valid party congress before sponsoring the governorship and other candidates.
The court held that the issue of qualification is both a pre-election and a post-election matter contrary to the tribunal’s findings, which held that the appellant lacked the locus to contest the validity of the respondent.
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