N10b Defamation Suit: Ugwuonye on the Run?
When controversial Lagos lawyer, Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye, in a Facebook post on his group, The Due Process Advocates on September 18 2018, announced that he will not come back to Nigeria for any reason, not many took him seriously, considering the fact that he has myriads of cases (as defendant) pending in different courts in Nigeria.
A subsequent post on the day of the last adjourned date of the Ten Billion Naira (N10b) suit (21stSeptember, 2017) instituted against him by husband of missing Abuja business woman, Charity Aiyedogbon, David Aiyedogbon, Mr. Ugwuonye said:
“Today, the case of David Aiyedogbon against me will come up in Abuja, where David had sued me for allegedly defaming him……Unfortunately, I will not be in Court in Abuja because I am still in the United States, seriously indisposed.”
In the same post, Ugwuonye alluded: “I am particularly disturbed that several women who had initially posed as Chacha’s friends have today abandoned her.”
This leaves one with the question of how Ugwuonye actually got involved in the matter. Some friends of Chacha whom he claimed consulted him on the matter all denied him. They are said to be at war with him presently. One of them, Pamela Nwansoh allegedly confronted him in a Police premises in Abuja over an obvious sense of disenchantment with his activities, alleging extortion of members of the public (in the name of looking for Chacha) using his Facebook Group, the Due Process Advocates (DPA). Ugwuonye had, via a post on the group, solicited financial contributions for his trip to Abuja to respond to Police invitation to explain himself over the case of the missing Chacha.
One of the ladies said to be involved in the search for Chacha, Viola Ifeyinwa Okolie, on the 14th of July, 2016, also made a worrisome post on her Facebook wall, expressing disenchantment with Mr. Ugwuonye’s antics.
As at today, Ugwuonye has neither responded to the issue of how he got involved in Chacha’s matter; nor rendered an account of the several millions of Naira contributed by concerned citizens in support of the search for Chacha. By the way, what really has he done and what exact steps has he taken to boost the search for the missing woman.
He earlier claimed to have been in the United States of America as at the time of Chacha’s disappearance and only came into Nigeria in June, 2016, after being briefed to handle the matter, but his call log betrayed him, showing that he was in Abuja on the 10th, 11th and 12th of May, 2016; same time Chacha is said to have got missing. Information from private investigators and telecommunication service providers revealed that he also made calls around Jabi area of Abuja, up till midnight same 10th and 11th and departed Abuja on the 12th of May, 2016. When confronted by the Police in Abuja with evidence of his movement, he owned up.
Key suspects earlier arrested by the Police in connection with Chacha’s disappearance were said to have been released at his instance. He claimed at the FCT Police Hqrs that they were his clients; but when brought face to face with Mr. Ugwuonye, they denied all his claims, saying they neither briefed nor identified any corpse to him as that of Chacha, as he earlier claimed.
As at the time of this report, Police sources reveal that Mr. Ugwuonye has not provided any evidence to substantiate his claims. The only person he claims showed and identified a corpse as that of missing Chacha (Jo) denied him.
Chacha’s car has been recovered. Two of her handsets have also been recovered and arrests made. Following several pointers to his possible complicity in the matter, Ugwuonye has been questioned more than thrice by the Police in Chacha’s case?
The first puzzle was solved, with the admission by one of Chacha’s lawyers, Nsikak Udo that Chacha’s signature was forged. He admitted that he lied on oath and his fate shall be determined by the laws of the land soon. Udo says he did not see Chacha, contrary to his earlier claim. He confessed to the Police that he forged Charity’s signature in an affidavit he filed in court. Apparently, Charity was not behind the filing of the suit, but her lawyer, Nsikak Udoh.
In one of those his posts, Ugwuonye claimed that “part of the protracted legal fight between Chacha and David was a fight over a real estate property in England, which was bought in Chacha’s company name, but which David was claiming as his. The conflict between the two led them to hire lawyers respectively in London and the matter was never resolved as of the date of Chacha’s disappearance.”
Investigations revealed that the claim is not only a misrepresentation of facts, but born out of mischief. Independent investigations revealed that there has never been any court case between Charity Aiyedogbon and her ex-husband, David Aiyedogbon in the United Kingdom. Even here in Nigeria, there was no pending court case between Charity Aiyedogbon and her ex-husband, David Aiyedogbon as at the time of her disappearance. The case that was filed at Lokoja was instituted by one of her lawyers, Mr. Udo, wherein he allegedly forged her (Chacha’s) signature. Police sources say he has already confessed to the offence in writing at the Police Headquarters in Abuja. The matter has already been decided in favour of David Aiyedogbon.
Chacha had left the husband’s house about two years before her disappearance and all efforts to bring her back to her matrimonial home failed, including those initiated by the Church and the both families. Available statistics suggest that there is no divorce petition pending anywhere instituted by Chacha, as claimed by Mr. Ugwuonye.
The bottom line is that there was no time Ugwuonye said he suspected David Aiyedogbon, as he is now claiming, but he was emphatic that he has evidence that he (David Aiyedogbon) murdered his wife. His posts on Facebook say it all:
“I now have overwhelming evidence that Mr. David Aiyedogbon killed his wife, Chacha. David has an idea of the kind of evidence at my disposal.”
In another post, Ugwuonye is quoted as saying: “this is the headless and dismembered body of Charity Aiyedogbon (posting a corpse on his DPA Facebook page). DPA has been able to identify this as her body within the limits of resources at our disposal.”
Continuing, on the 28th of June, 2016, he is quoted as posting: “I will describe David as a low-life and cold-blooded murderer of his own wife. The only reason I would not go further to describe David in the most despicable language that he rightly deserves is that I would rather focus my argument on points that would lead to justice for Chacha.”
In an earlier reaction to Ugwuonye’s allegation, Mr. Aiyedogbon washed his hands over the disappearance of the woman and wrote his accuser, through his lawyers, demanding an apology, failure which he would institute a suit against him for defamation of character.
The letter dated 21st June 2016, titled: “Defamation of the character of David Aiyedogbon; demand for apology,” signed by his lawyer, Obiora Ilo and made available to newsmen, expressly states: “It is our instruction to demand an unqualified apology from you to our client through our chambers for the defamatory publications you have made of and concerning our client.”
Aiyedogbon went a step further by writing a reminder to him, reiterating the issues raised in the earlier letter. The second letter dated 12th July, 2017, signed by Chinenye Ofoegbu, of Ogbulafor chambers and made available to newsmen, expressed his readiness to drag him to Court, in an event that he failed to apologize and issue a retraction.
Following his recalcitrance, David Aiyedogbon approached the Court to seek redress. He is asking for Ten Billion Naira from Ugwuonye, as damages for defaming him.
In addition to the Ten Billion Naira damages, the Suit, with number CV/2750/16, between David Aiyedogbon (Plaintiff) and Emeka Ugwuonye (Defendant) on defamation of character, before Justice Peter Kekemeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 14, Apo, Abuja; also prays that the defendant be ordered to pay for the cost of the litigation.
The Plaintiff is also seeking an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the Defendant, his Agents, Privies, Associates or whosoever called” from making further defamatory publications against him and his family members. It is instructive to note that as at today, Ugwuonye is yet to produce any evidence to substantiate his allegations against Mr. Aiyedogbon.
Sources close to Mr. Aiyedogbon’s lawyer, Tony Ogbulafor say he may have also filed a personal suit against Mr. Ugwuonye for wrongly accusing him of giving a bribe (in an envelope) to a Police man to detain him, at the peak of Police investigations.
Meanwhile, following Ugwuonye’s evasive nature, the presiding Judge, Justice Kekemeke, on the 5th of October, 2017, made an Order for substituted service on him, since his last known address in Lagos has been under lock and key, while an earlier Order by the Court for him to provide an address for service within Abuja is yet to be complied with.
But, where is Emeka Ugwuonye? As the matter comes up for hearing on the 25th of October, 2017, one expects him to appear and prove to the court that David Aiyedogbon murdered his wife. It is time to present his “overwhelming evidence” against Mr. Aiyedogbon before the Court. His refusal to appear in Court on the next adjourned date (25th October, 2017) will be a confirmation that indeed, he is on exile. But for how long will he run? In my next piece, I will analyse the possible implications of his exile on the matter.
But, as a lawyer of over twenty-five years (as he always claims), Ugwuonye knows that he that asserts must prove. Is exile an option for him? Time shall tell.
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