16th February, 2023
By Taiye Agbaje
Dr. Peter Mbah, the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 11 election in Enugu has dragged the state chairman of opposition All Progressives Congress, APC Chief Ugochukwu Agballah and Independent Newspapers Limited, publishers of Daily Independent Newspapers to court demanding a sum of N1 billion over alleged libel.
Mbah, the Founder and CEO of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited, equally demanded N10 million as cost of the suit.
In a statement of claim in the suit marked: E/25/2023 filed at Enugu State High Court on Jan. 18 by his lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, Mbah alleged that Agballah accused him of joining the governorship race in order to use Enugu State’s funds to pay up an alleged N40 billion business debt.
He said he was severally embarrassed by countless calls and messages from concerned family members, business and political associates, loved ones, friends and in-laws, while several Nigerians, who thought the claims to be true, condemned him in the media and social media platforms.
According to the court processes by his lawyer, the statement and publication by the defendants were calculated to lower the claimant (Mbah) in the estimation of right thinking members of the society; isolate the claimant from the society; expose the claimant to hatred, odium, contempt, and ridicule; cause other persons to shun or avoid the claimant; and discredit the claimant in the matter of his business and political engagements.
He said though he directed his solicitors to write the defendants vide a correspondence dated 22nd July, 2022, in which he demanded a retraction of the publication and an apology as well as compensation for damaging his reputation, they chose to ignore it.
Mbah therefore sought a court declaration that by the publication of May 30, 2022 in the newspaper, the defendants had falsely and maliciously accused him of membership in a gang of criminals and that he is engaging in criminal activities.
The claimant, therefore, demanded the sum of N1 billion as general damages for the alleged libelous publication against him.
He also sought an order mandating the defendants to publish an apology and a retraction of the defamatory publication made against him in at least three national dailies.