…..says I’ve suffered great trauma, deserted by friends
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-Determined to prove that he was awarded a Bachelors Degree by the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Senator Dino Melaye, on Thursday, pledged to tender his certificate before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama.
Melaye, who is representing Kogi West in the Senate, said he would tender the certificate during hearing of a N5billion libel suit he slammed against an online media outlet, Sahara Reporters, which alleged that he never graduated from the Geography Department of ABU Zaria.
In the suit he filed through his lawyer, Mr. Mark Ikongbeh, Senator Melaye, insisted that he indeed bagged a B. Sc in Geography from the University.
He told the court that the certificate scandal has exposed him to great psychological stress and emotional trauma, saying he has been abandoned by his friends and associates owing to the defamatory publication by the defendants.
Cited as 1st to 4th defendants in the suit marked M/4812/17, were, the Incorporated Trustees of Sahara Reporters Media Foundation, Omoyele Sowore, Temitope Olumuyide and Sahara Reporters Media Group Inc.
Aside praying the court to award him N5billion as aggravate and exemplary damages for libel, the plaintiff also applied for an injunction restraining the defendants, by themselves or by their servants or agents, from making further publications on the issue.
He is equally seeking N10million as cost of the legal action.
In the statement of claim, the plaintiff told the court that a great number of his constituents, friends, associates, foreign acquaintances have felt so betrayed and let down by conducts maliciously and falsely alleged against him by the defendants, to an extent that they have ostracised him and have currently given him a wide berth.
He said: “Many invitations to honourable events have been withdrawn and attempts to reach out to several people who had very cordial relations with the plaintiff has been met with a cold shoulder.
“The plaintiff has suffered great psychological stress and emotional trauma by reason of the defamatory publications arising from the loss of company he has suffered from friends and associates.
“This precarious psychology state has been exacerbated by the number of people whom the plaintiff has had to reach out to or who have reached out to him for explanation and reassurance of the truth in the situation.
“The plaintiff has greatly been weighed down emotionally by the sudden loss of huge public goodwill which he enjoyed prior to the publication of the defamatory publication.
“Further, the defendants published the defamatory words out of malevolence and spite towards the plaintiff and with a view to cower the plaintiff into soft pedalling on his stance in several issues ongoing in the Senate chambers”.
In a 15-paragraphed affidavit that was personally deposed by the plaintiff, he averred: “That I am a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Kogi West Senatorial District of Kogi State and I was once the honourable member of the House of Representatives representing the Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency. Amongst other duties; I currently serve as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the FCT.
“The 1st defendant is an organisation setup under Part C of the companies and Allied Matters Act as a non-profit organisation ostensibly dedicated to promoting a brand of investigative journalism pioneered by the 4th defendant. The 1st defendant is the Nigerian arm of the 4th defendant. The 1st defendant by its official filings at the Corporate Affairs Commission is based in Lagos.
“The 2nd and 3rd defendants are the Trustees of the 1st defendant and also the promoters of the 4th defendant. They are self-styled investigative journalists who are not visibly known to be accredited by or affiliated to any registered media outfit.
“They operate under the popular ‘Sahara Reporters’ brand. The 2nd and 3rd defendants operate all over Nigeria but have listed addresses located in Lagos in their corporate filings.
“The 4th defendant is a business Corporation organised under the laws of New York State in the United States of America and is the proprietor of a website and other online channels through which it disseminates news items predominantly about governance issues in Nigeria.
“The 2nd defendant is listed as the Chief Executive Officer of the 4th defendant. That the 4th defendant is based in New York, United States of America but is represented in the country by the 2nd defendant who is also its alter ego and service of court process on the 2nd defendant will definitely bring the suit to the 4th defendant’s attention.
“On the 19th and 20th March 2017, the defendants falsely and maliciously wrote, posted, and published or caused to be written on their verified Twitter handle identified as @SaharaReporters hosted online at the web address
“FLASH: University teachers at the Geography Department of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria insists that @dino_melaye did not graduate, bribed his HOD/1 (posted at 4:09 PM- 19th March 2017.
“FLASH: University teachers at the Geography Dept of ABU, Zaria insists that @dino_melaye never graduated, DG DSS informed but covered it up. (posted at 4:11 PM- 19th March 2017.
“FLASH: At least 3 Exam Officers at ABU, Zaria insists that @dino_melaye never graduated from Geography Dept, DG DSS alerted but covered it up (posted at 4:14PM – 19th March 2017).
“FLASH: Exam Officers at ABU, Zaria insists that @dino_melaye never graduated from Geography Dept, they said Dino’s name was not on graduation list (posted at 4:16 PM -19th March 2017)”.
He said the online media outfit equally posted that his HOD, Prof. David Okoro Ogbonna, assisted him to forge his transcript and that he applied for a Post Graduate program at UNIJOS, went to ABU for transcript and none could be provided.
Melaye said the defendants further posted that he went ahead to do a PG at UNIJOS without any transcript from ABU, Geography Dept.
“By the said words in their natural and ordinary meaning, the defendants meant and were understood to mean: That I am dishonest and have deceived the public about the state of my academic qualifications.
“That my academic credentials are shady and questionable. That I am guilty of bribery and corruption. That I have corruptly influenced investigation against me.
“That I am guilty of forgery. That I am guilty of corruptly influencing public officers in the performance of their duties. That my educational qualifications are false and fake.
“That I am guilty of the criminal conduct of collusion and falsification of official records. That I am unworthy of the credit and trust of the society. That I am unworthy to hold the office of the Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The above publication received instant widespread publicity both within and outside Nigeria as the defendants website
“The verified twitter handle of the defendants @saharaReporters has over 1, 390, 000 followers to whom the publication was immediate made available upon publication”.
He said the scale of the publication was further enlarged by the sheer number of people that were drawn by his popularity and reputation, adding, “the greatest impact of this publication is here in Abuja”.
According to him, “The result of the publication of the defamatory words by the defendants has been devastating to my image and has greatly injured my credit and reputation and brought me into public scandal, odium and contempt”.
In his statement of claim, Melaye further told the court that the defendants, “propagate a style of unconventional and unregulated journalism which they term “advocacy journalism” that encourages “citizen journalist” (essentially untrained and unregulated individuals) to report news items which are not subject to verification before publication.
“The plaintiff is a graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, where he bagged a B. Sc in Geography. The Plaintiff’s certificates are pleaded.
“The plaintiff at all times material to this suit is a highly visible politician who is well known through the length and breadth of Nigeria and globally. He ranks high amongst the most well-known public office holders currently in Nigeria having served in several capacities over the years.
“The plaintiff has particularly become a beacon and a model to the youths of the world due to the roots of his political life which begun with his active participation in student union affairs at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
“By dint of selfless stewardship, the plaintiff successfully transformed from a youth leader into a National leader in Nigeria reputed for frankness, forthrightness and principled leadership”.
Meantime, the suit is yet to be assigned to any judge for hearing.