By Babatunde Titilola
The Managing Director of Rainoil Limited, Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, has alleged former lawmaker, Ned Nwoko, of threatening his life in a suit before Justice Chizoba Oji sitting at the FCT High Court, Abuja.
Ogbechie, in the suit also alleged that Nwoko engaged in character assassination and defamation through petitions and publications.
Our correspondent learnt that Nwoko had written a petition to the Inspector General of Police on November 12, 2020, alleging that Ogbechie wanted to kill him.
The petition followed a land and kingship dispute between Nwoko and the traditional ruler of Idumuje-Ugboko in the Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.
It was learnt that the dispute led to attacks on Idumuje Ugboko community on May 18 and 25, 2017, after which several arrests were made.
Nwoko had alleged Ogbechie of taking sides in the dispute.
The ex-lawmaker also submitted another petition on January 7, 2021, informing the IGP that his informant who revealed Ogbechie’s plot, Osemeka Bosah, had been killed.
Nwoko allegedly claimed that the informant, who was in the Nigerian Correctional Facility in Suleja, Niger State, at that time, had told him that he overheard two other inmates, Chetachukwu Okolo and Onyisi Esuzor, planning his (Nwoko’s) death.
However, in an investigation report dated August 12, 2021, and obtained by our correspondent, the police declared that “there was no evidence to prove the allegation of planned attack to kill Prince Ned Nwoko against Gabriel Ogbechie.”
The police further stated that the informant died from drug addiction complications, adding that “investigation has not revealed any sponsorship of the two suspects, Chetachukwu Okolo and Onyisi Esuzor, by Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie.”
In the suit marked CV/560/2021 and filed on February 24, 2021, Ogbechie, among other claims, said Nwoko wrote and distributed a defamatory press statement to several newspapers on December 10, 2020, alleging him sponsoring the attacks on the Idumuje-Ugboko community in 2017.
The businessman asked the court to declare the petitions against him as false and defamatory, and order Nwoko to retract them while publishing an apology on a full page of a newspaper.
He also appealed to the court to order Nwoko to pay him the sum of N1bn as damages, adding that a restrain order be declared to prevent Nwoko or his agents from repeating the defamatory acts.
It was learnt that at the last adjourned date on May 30, 2022, Justice Oji had advised the parties to explore settlement options out of court.
At the resumed proceedings on Wednesday, Ogbechie’s lawyer, Ekemejero Ohwovoriole, SAN, said the out-of-court settlement advised by the judge had broken down as Nwoko’s lawyer had failed to meet him.
He added that Nwoko and his lawyer had 180 days after the last adjourned date in May to sit on the out-of-court settlement but did not.
Nwoko’s lawyer, Onyeka Nwokolo, however, said the politician had been unwell and out of the country for treatment. He noted that the option of out-of-court settlement could still be explored.
Justice Oji agreed with Ohwovoriole, and commenced the hearing of the suit.
He adjourned the case till February 27, 2023 for hearing, adding that the parties should seek out-of-court settlement before the next adjourned date.