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IGP’s defamation character charge against Anambra community leaders adjourned to Sept. 25

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…as deposed monarch marks one yr of Soludo’s withdrawal of his Igweship certificate

By Chuks Eke

The defamation of character charge brought at Onitsha High court in Anambra State by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, against eight leaders of Umuona community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State has again been adjourned to September 25, this year.

This is even as the deposed traditional ruler of Umuona community, Igwe Humphrey Ejesieme who incidentally is the nominal complainant in the IGP’s charge against the community leaders, marked one year of the withdrawal of his Igweship certificate by Governor Soludo’s administration in a mourning mood.

The state government had on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 withdrew the Igweship certificate issued to Igwe Ejesieme in 2014 by former Governor Peter Obi.

On Thursday, June 13, this year, Igwe Ejesieme and his subjects who had earlier declared Tuesday, Junec13, 2023 as a ‘Black Tuesday’, went into mourning mood as part of activities marking one year period of the withdrawal of his Igweship certificate.

Igwe Ejesieme and his subjects continued with the mourning mood up till Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15 and ended it on Sunday, June 16 with Thanksgiving prayers in all the churches at Umuona where they thanked God for keeping them alive for one year now since after the withdrawal of his Igweship certificate.

They therefore prayed God to open the eyes of Governor Chukwuma Soludo to see the truth and discover that he was deceived by the opposition with false information to withdraw his Igweship certificate.

The state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Tony Collins Nwabunwanne had on June 13, 2023, notified Igwe Ejesieme in a letter of the withdrawal of his Igweship certificate by the state government.

Government said in the letter that it’s decision to withdraw Ejesieme’s Igweship certificate was based on the allegation levied against him by some opposing community leaders now accused persons in the charge that he stormed the community’s town hall, venue of the Annual General Meeting, AGM of December 28, 2022 with armed thugs and disrupted the AGM proceedings.

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But not satisfied with the reason adduced by the state government for the withdrawal of his Igweship certificate and also based on the fact that government did not give him fair hearing before taking such a decision he described as drastic in withdrawing the certificate issued to him since 2014 by former Governor Peter Obi, Igwe Ejesieme headed to the IGP’s office in Abuja and reported a case of character assassination of his person by the eight community leaders.

Consequently, IGP invstigated Ejesieme’s allegation against them and charged them to court as accused persons now before an Onitsha High court No. 1 presided over by Justice J. I. Nweze, for defamation of Ejesieme’s character.

The accused persons are Kenneth Okoli (67), President-General of Umuona community; Ernest Onyejekwe, (69), Dr. Anthony Okoli (70), Godfrey Ezeabalim (75), Chukwudi Obiora (40), Obiakor Gilbert (67), Bartholomew Udemba (60) and HRH, Igwe Iyke S. C
Ezeofor (61).

When the case was called up for the first time, both parties were present in court but Ifechukwu Malobi Esq. and Ifeanyi Egbuna Esq. both from the Chambers of Chief Ikenna Egbuna SAN watched the brief for the complainant, Igwe Ejesieme as a Senior counsel from the office of Anambra state Attorney-General tendered a letter from the Attorney-General requesting the court to transmit the case file to her office to enable her review and access it and then take appropriate measures.

However, the presiding judge of the court, Justice Nweze adjourned the matter to June 5 to enable the police prosecution liaise with the Attorney-General so that the charge against the accused persons would be formally read for them to take their plea.

On June 5, the police prosecution could not catch a flight from Abuja to Onitsha for the matter due to the NLC strike to pressurize the federal government to increase minimum wage of workers and consequently the court again adjourned the matter to September 25 for definite hearing.

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Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP Simon Lough SAN and G.T. Nev Esq. of the Legal/Prosecution Section, Force Headquarters, Abuja are prosecuting the accused persons on behalf of the IGP.

In the three-count charge preferred against them in the Charge No. O/18C/2024: IGP Vs. the defendants, the police prosecution alleged that the accused persons and others now at large had on or about December 28, 2022 at Umuona, while acting in concert, conspired among themselves to commit felony to wit: defamation of character of His Royal Highness, HRH, Igwe Humphrey Ejesieme

The prosecution further alleged that the accused persons had on the same date at Umuona Civic Centre, falsely accused Igwe Ejesieme in a letter they wrote to Anambra state Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, dated May 28, 2022 of invading the general meeting of Umuona Progressive Union, UPU with thugs armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons, whereas Igwe Ejesieme attended the said.meeting on December 28, 2022 with his cabinet members only.

The prosecution contended that it was based on the accused persons’ false information as contained in their letter to the Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs dated May 28, 2022 that prompted the state government to withdraw the certificate of recognition issued to Igwe Ejesieme in 2014 as the traditional ruler of Umuona by former Governor Peter Obi.

The prosecution said the letter to the Commissioner written by the accused persons alleging that Igwe Ejesieme attended the UPU meeting with thugs armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons created an erroneous impression so much so that the state government acted upon it to withdraw his certificate of recognition.

The offences, according to the prosecution were punishable under Sections 517, 125 (A) and 375 of the Criminal Code Act, C38 and C39 of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.

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