By Uzoh Ugwueze, Enugu
The crisis rocking the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu has taken another dimension as four principal staff of the hospital have been slammed with N20 million libel suit before an Enugu State High Court.
The suit was instituted by Nurse Afam Ndu, who alleged that the defendants caused him severe damages by claiming that he had no National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate, among other allegations.
The defendants include: Dr. Vincent Nwokejiezi Ubochi, Dr. Justin Achor, Dr. Nneka Unogu, nee Akpu and Dr. Onyekachi Ugwuonye.
The plaintiff is asking the court for among other things, “A declaration that the defendants false allegation against the plaintiff in a petition dated 10/7/17 in Ref. No. NMA/FNPHE/004 addressed to the minister of state for health as signed by the defendants alleging that the plaintiff does not possess requisite credentials/qualifications to be employed as a Nurse Tutor in the School of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu amounts to actionable libel, which has defamed the character and reputation of the plaintiff.
“A declaration that the defendants’ false allegation against the plaintiff in a petition dated 10/7/17 in Ref. No. NMA/FNPHE/004 addressed to the Minister of State for health as signed by the defendants alleging the plaintiff to be an assassin, who has been threatening, molesting and attacking his colleagues with thugs and hoodlums amounts to actionable libel, which has defamed the character and reputation of the plaintiff.
“A declaration that the entire contents of allegation against the plaintiff in a petition dated 10/7/17 in Ref. No. NMA/FNPHE/004 addressed to the Minister of State for health as signed by the defendants are false, malicious, vexatious and constitutes actionable libel, which has caused the plaintiff odium, contempt, ridicule and caricature before right thinking persons.
“An order of court for the immediate retraction by the defendants of the libelous defamatory statements against the plaintiff together with an unreserved apology in at least two national newspapers of widespread in Nigeria.
“General/aggravated damages of Twenty Million Naira (20,000,000.00) only jointly and severable against the defendants.”
Orient Weekend reports that when the case up before Justice E.M Egumgbe, he frowned at the action of the defendants, saying they were unnecessarily delaying the case.
He granted a N20,000 cost against them in favour of the plaintiff and adjourned the case for November 15 to allow the plaintiff respond to the statement of defence filed by the defendants.
Speaking to journalists after the court session, counsel to the plaintiff, Barr. Ifeanyi Adani said, “the case is a defamation matter. Today is supposed to be for hearing based on the previous adjournment, the matter was set down today for hearing and we intended to put in our plaintiff witness but on reaching to the court they served us with a statement of defence for the first to fourth defendants.
“However, it is a proper thing in law that when it is served that we should reply on the issues raised in the statement because if we fail, it is taken that we admitted to the matters raised in the statement.
“However, other issues that led to argument in the court room include the issue of cost. Sometime ago, some amount of money was awarded against the defendants but they were not able to pay that till date. As if that was not enough, the document, which they served on us was irregular in law.”