By Onoja John
…say Chairman embarking on executive rascality
The Chairman of Ado Local Government Area in Benue State, Mr. James Oche, has been dragged before the Federal Court Abuja over alleged defamation of character, and libelous publication with malicious intention.
The suit against the Local Government Chairman came as no surprise to many observers and political analysts who had already condemned the hasty and spurious declaration which they tagged a political hatchet job and witch-haunt against the duo; Gideon Unazi and Patrick Eza who are staunch supporters of the APC candidate for House of Representatives, Chief Philip Agbese.
It will be recalled that the duo who are Social Media activists have been critical of the Chairman’s handling of affairs of the Local Government to account for how he spent ecological funds given to the local government through the federal government, COVID-19 relief materials belonging to Ado Local Government people but found in Kano, monthly allocations to the council and other activities suspected to be fraud and mismanaged by the Chairman.
Investigations by well-meaning citizens of the State revealed that they were simply declared “wanted” to answer to the nebulous claims on Facebook by the LG Chairman.
It is unfortunate and criminal to have placed their pictures side by side with those of known suspected criminals who had allegedly committed a crime and were arrested for having firearms without a permit.
Oche, in a post on August 23 titled ‘Patrick Eza and Gideon Unazi Wanted Over Criminal Investigation in Ado’ had alleged that the pair were on the run over links to kidnappings and other criminal activities.
But in the suit dated August 25, Unazi and Eza described themselves as public affairs analysts with Patriot and Sage Digital Communications Limited and Whistleblowers Anti-Corruption Reporting Network respectively, innocent and persons with no link to any criminal activity to warrant the kind of wickedness meted out on them by Mr. James Oche.
The pair denied any connection whatsoever with any act of criminality such as kidnappings, robbery, and others.
Through their lawyer F.S Jimba, Unazi and Eza, therefore, demanded the sum of N500m from the defendants for defamation.
They also demanded an order of perpetual injunction restraining Oche and Facebook from further publishing any defamatory statements against their persons, family, or associates.
The pair also asked the court to compel the defendants to publish a retraction and apology on Facebook and five national dailies.
A local Government Chairman has no immunity by law in Nigeria and therefore can sue and be sued for any infringement on the rights of others.
Also joined in the suit is the social media giant Facebook which allowed its platform to be used to peddle falsehood, misinformation, and unconfirmed posts by Mr. James Oche.
According to the Writ of Summon, Oche and Facebook have 14 days to respond, and failure to do so, judgment will be given in favour of the complainants.