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National Light acquitted from N550m libel case

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AN Anambra State High Court of Justice sitting in Awka Monday discharged Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), publishers of National Light, from a N550 million libel case instituted against it and two other defendants by one Victor Nwankwo.

The other defendants in the case were Traditional Ruler of Nawfia in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, H.R.H (Igwe) Chijioke Nwankwo and erstwhile Group Editor of National Light, Chris Aghanya – who were sued as first and second defendants respectively.

The court which was presided over by Justice O. D. Onyefulu cleared the Corporation and Aghanya on the grounds that the plaintiff did not follow due process of law while commencing his suit.

According to Justice Onyefulu, the court has no choice than to totally agree with arguments submitted by learned Counsel for Aghanya and National Light, Barr O. E. Mathew’s contention that failure by Victor Nwankwo to institute his case within the ambit of law had rendered the case incurably incompetent, from the outset.

Delivering his well considered judgement on the case, Justice Onyefulu stated that with the totality of evidence and pleadings exchanged by parties in the case, Barr Mathew was right in his submissions that owing to Nwankwo’s failure or neglect to comply with statutory rules and provisions of law, fundamentally necessary to activating the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case against second and third defendants, Nwankwo’s case against National Light and Aghanya should not succeed.

He therefore struck out National Light and Chris Aghanya from the case, adding that they are not liable to pay any amount from the damages claimed against them, because the plaintiff’s case against them failed.

The court also held that whatever is the feud or dispute between Nwankwo and Igwe of Nawfia can be settled by them, without involving the second and third defendants.

Speaking to newsmen at the Awka High Court complex, Counsel for Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC) and Mr. Chris Aghanya, Barr O. E. Mathew expressed his satisfaction with the judgement, describing it as victory for due process and rule of law.

“Today’s victory belongs to God, not man. It shows that all hopes are not lost for Nigerian judiciary. Because the court could not have held otherwise where the plaintiff’s case was incompetent right from the day he moved against National Light and its editor. It is also a lesson to litigants not to rush to court unless they get their acts together,” he said.

The Awka-based legal practitioner also disclosed that Nwankwo capsized his case against ANPC and Aghanya midstream by proceeding without issuing a pre-action notice on the former as requisite in the Edict of 1994 that established it.

Nwankwo also sued Aghanya after five months and nine days contrary to the law that provided for three months within which Aghanya, by the nature of his employment as staff of a public corporation, may be sued as contained in section 2 of Public Officers Protection Act.

According to him, this is so because even when people think their right has been infringed, there may be some basic conditions precedents laid on their way to court which if not taken or exhausted may defeat the plaintiff’s claim no matter how attractive they seem to him.

It will be recalled that one Victor Nwankwo had sued National Light for libel over a publication contained in page 19 of its Thursday August 20 edition in which Igwe Nawfia raised an alarm over his life, alleging that Nwankwo was behind the plot.

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