Sacked Nnamzi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNIZIK) lecturer, Dr. Peter Ekemezie, has filed suit at Anambra State High Court sitting in Awka praying the court to award N500,000,000 as general and exemplary damages over alleged defamatory story published by The Punch newspaper.
Ekemezie in the suit filed on July 17, 2020 alleged that stories published by the newspaper in May, June and July 2019 defamed his reputation and caused him great damages.
In a 47-paragraph statement of claim submitted to the court, he narrated how he received a call from cell phone number: 08030572852 at 11:45am on Monday, May 13, 2019 from a strange person who introduced himself as a Punch journalist and mentioned one Mr. Wuyi from Osun State that would like to discuss with him.
He averred in his claim that Mr. Wuyi came to his office located at Chike Obi Building, Science Village, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka on Wednesday, May 15 2019 to tell him that his caller’s name was Samson Folarin – a Punch Newspaper reporter based in Lagos i.e. the 2nd defendant in the suit. Ekemezie claimed that his refusal to do what they demanded was the reason they published the alleged libelous story.
Other respondents to the suit are: Tony Okafor, Samson Folarin, and the Editor-In-Chief, Punch Newspaper (Nig) Ltd.
The statement of claim reads: “That the said reporter had liaised with Mr. Tony Okafor based in Awka and who served as Anambra State reporter for Punch Newspaper to be in a meeting organized at instance of members of ASUU-NAU which held the previous day, Tuesday, May 14, 2019 with Professors Dennis Aribodor, John Nduka, Obi Oguejiofor, Drs. Steve Ufaroh and Chigozie Anarado in attendance.
“Mr. Wuyi i.e. 2nd defendant’s agent further told me that certain defamatory manuscripts were handed over to him for publication at a cost of one million naira to be transmitted through the 1st defendant after the meeting” he stated in his claim.
“Again, 2nd defendant’s agent, Mr. Wuyi revealed to me that he (2nd defendant) was of the opinion that if I could buoy-up the amount to one million, five hundred naira, he (2nd defendant) would publish my side of the story and balance my false accusers their one million naira.
“It was my refusal to succumb to this criminal blackmail that made the defendants to publish as a headline of Punch Newspaper on Thursday, 23rd May, 2019 bearing 2nd defendant’s name Samson Folarin as the reporter captioned: certificate, plagiarism scandal rock Nnamdi Azikiwe University on pages 38 and 39.
“That one of my counsels, E. U. Udegbuna wrote the Editor-In-Chief of Punch Newspaper drawing the attention of the 2nd defendant in a letter titled: “Publication of Highly Defamatory and Contemptuous Matters which are Subjudice against the person of Dr. Peter N. Ekemezie of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka by one Samson Folarin: A Demand for Immediate Retraction and Public Apology” and delivered through DHL Courier service.
“That on tracking, the letter above was delivered at 4:12pm on 28th May, 2019. That the 3rd defendant did not respond to the letter from my counsel but rather the 2nd defendant continued further publications of defamatory items against me in the 4th Defendant’s Newspaper.
“That none of the false allegations in those defamatory publications were contained in my curriculum vitae submitted to the Joint Council/Senate Disciplinary Committee set up by the Vice Chancellor in a bid to validate the CV used for my appraisal to professorial cadre as a result of those malicious publications that smeared the name of University.”
Newsmen gathered that Dr. Ekemezie filed an action against his dismissal in the National Industrial Court in Suit No.: NICN/AWK/47/2019 on November 18, 2019 against the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. But the university management has not filed any defence to the suit as at the time of this report.
Also, in a different suit, Ekemezie sued his departmental colleagues, Dr. Chigozie Anarado and Prof. John Nduka over alleged defamatory petition.