IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE OF PLATEAU STATE OF NIGERIA IN THE PLATEAU STATE JUDICIAL DIVISION HOLDEN AT JOS ON FRIDAY THE 2ND DAY OF MARCH, 2018 BEFORE HON. JUSTICE A.I. ASHOM – JUDGE
SUIT NO: PLD/J638CV/2016
DR. MICHAEL OWOKOICHO ODEH…….................... PLAINTIFF
AND MR. MADUABUCHI ORJI……………………….. DEFENDANT
At the Instance of the Plaintiff a writ of summons dated 14th November, 2016 and filed on the 17th November 2016 was issued against the Defendant on the 25/11/2016.
The writ of summons is accompanied by a statement of claim comprising of 17 paragraphs and witness statements on oath of two witnesses one of which is the Plaintiff himself. In paragraph 17 of the statement of claim, it’s averred:
Whereof the Plaintiff claims against the Defendant jointly and severally for:
a. The sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira only) on the footing of exemplary and aggravated damages for libel and injurious falsehood resulting from the false and malicious affidavit of complaint by the Defendant to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
b. An order directing the Defendant to retract the entire libelous affidavit and an apology sent to the Plaintiff.
c. An order or perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant by himself and his agents, privies or otherwise howsoever described from further writing, publishing or material calculated or that tends to defame the Plaintiff in any manner whatsoever.
d. The cost of the action being the sum of
The Defendant upon being served the Plaintiff’s writ of summons on the 21/12/16 promptly entered appearance on the 22/12/16 through his counsel Harrison N. Ugwuala Esq. Therefore, the Defendant filed a statement of defence on 18/1/2017. The statement of defence is dated 17/1/2017. The parties thus fully joined issues.
The crux of the Plaintiff’s claim against the Defendant as averted in the statement of claim is that the Defendant and his wife have a retainship with the Plaintiff’s Hospital for themselves, their wards and children and staff of their business. That sometimes in August 2016 the Plaintiff received a petition from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria titled “RE-AFFIDAVIT OF COMPLAINT OF MADUABUCHI ORJI AGAINST DR. MICHAEL ODEH OWICHO ON THE SEDUCTION OF HIS WIFE MRS. SHARON STELLA IFEOMA ORJI BY THE SAID DR. MICHAEL ODEH OWOOICHO” That the affidavit in paragraph 4,6,10,12 and 14 are false and injurious to the Plaintiff and are understood to mean;
a. The Plaintiff is an unreliable person and doctor who seduces and has improper relationship with his female patient.
b. That the Plaintiff is unworthy of being a medical doctor as he cannot be trusted with his patient.
It is also averred that by the Defendants complaint and depositions many of his patients by their reactions have demonstrated that they have lost confidence in the Plaintiff in consequence of the Defendant’s affidavit to the Medical and Dental Council.
The Defendant in his 20 paragraph statement of defence averred in denial of most of the material averments in the Plaintiff’s statement of claim. The Defendant denied paragraph 5,6, and 7 of the statement of claim and states that the Plaintiff worked at Samanthar Lucil Hospital situate at Ighoukwn Street Jos and while there occasionally attended to the Defendant’s wife and children each time they presented ailments for treatments, and this was between 2010 and 2014. And that it was at Samanthar Lucil Hospital that the Plaintiff, unknown to the Defendant and in gross abuse of the doctor-patient relationship between them developed an amorous relationship with the Defendant’s wife. The Defendant admit paragraph 8 and 9 of the statement of claim and maintains that the depositions of fact he made in his affidavit of complaint to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigation Panel are true. Answering paragraph 10 of the statement of claim, the Defendant states that the report he made to the Police leading to the arrest of the Plaintiff are true and not frivolous. That the Plaintiff and the Defendant’s wife in their various statements to the Police admitted that the Plaintiff not only runs errand for the Defendant’s wife and attend social gathering together, but that the Plaintiff even spend weekends in the Defendant’s house. In answer to paragraph 11 of the statement of claim, the Defendant avers that the allegations made in his affidavit of complaint are true and made only to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigation Panel as a step in the commencement of disciplinary proceedings against the Plaintiff for misbehaviour in his capacity as a Medical Doctor in line with the provision of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap M8 LFN 2004. Answering paragraph 14 of the statement of claim, the Defendant states that after going through the Plaintiff’s counter affidavit to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigation Panel and discovered that deposition therein were untrue the Defendant on the 21/12/2016 deposed to a further and better Affidavit which was delivered to the Panel on the 3rd January, 2017. Regarding the Plaintiff’s claim, the Defendant states that the words complained to by the Plaintiff in the Defendants affidavit to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Investigation Panel was furnished on an occasion of absolute privilege hence no action can lie for any alleged defamatory statement contained in the affidavit.
After the joining of issues in the pleadings of respective parties, the case was set down for hearing and actually went into hearing. On the 15/5/2017 the Plaintiff testified as PW1. He identified and adopted his witness statement on oath which statement was made and deposed to on the 17/11/16. Substantially, the depositions in the Plaintiff’s witness statement on oath is mostly an adoption of his averments in the statement of claim. Several documents are annexed to the Plaintiff’s witness statement on oath as Exhibits. An attempt by learned S.A. Oladipo representing the Plaintiff to lead the Plaintiff to adopt the documents annexed to his witness statement on oath was resisted by H. N. Ogwuala Esq. on behalf of the Defendant. Following the arguments for and against that method or procedure of adding documentary evidence, the Court in its ruling delivered on the 19/6/17 the Plaintiff’s Counsel application to adopt the documents.
PW1 was thereafter extensively cross-examined by the Defendant’s Counsel. In the course of such extensive, exhaustive and indeed explosive cross-examined, the Plaintiff made for reaching admissions to include sleeping in the Defendant’s house with his wife, in the absence of the Defendant. He also admitted attending a party twice with the Defendant’s wife. Also admitted is the fact that he had deposited money into the account of the Defendant’s wife, and she also had made deposits of money into his account. That she paid
of N10 Million each in all one day. That the transactions were later reversed.
Documents tendered and admitted in evidence through PW1 are Exhibits XPA to
On the 19/6/17 when PW1 was cross-examined the case was adjourned to the 7/7/17 for continuation of hearing. On the said 7/7/17 when the case came up, the Plaintiff and his Counsel were absent Learned H. N. Ugwuala representing the Defendant informed the Court that the Plaintiff’s Counsel send him an SMS message to the effort that he cannot come to Court because his client the Plaintiff was by then in prison custody by another Court. The suit was then adjourned to 4/10/17 for continuation for hearing.
On the 4/10/17, the Plaintiff and his Counsel were again not in Court, and there was no correspondence from the Plaintiff or his counsel explaining the circumstances behind their absence from court. On the application of leaned counsel to the defendant, the Plaintiff’s case was closed and the case adjourned to 8/11/17 for the defendant to commence his defence.
When the matter came up on the 8/11/17, K.E.O Powar Esq. appeared for the Plaintiff holding the brief of S.A Oladipo Esq, and S.I Abubakar Esq. appeared for the defendant.
Learned Powar informed the Court that though the matter has came up for defence, he was under instructions to apply to withdraw the suit.
Learned Abubakar opposed the withdrawal of the suit and submitted that the Plaintiff’s case having been closed can only be withdrawn by way of a motion on Notice as provided for under 29 rule (3) of the Rules of Court. That the Defendant was however resting his case on that of the Plaintiff. Counsel applied for 14 days within which to file the Defendant’s final written address. Mr. Powar submitted that he was not opposing to that position and applied for 21 days from the date the Defendant’s address is served on them to also file the Plaintiff’s final written address. The 14/12/17 was fixed for adoption of final written addresses of respective counsel. On the 14/12/17 when the case was mentioned, no addresses had been filed by any counsel. Nnamdi Ammadi Esq. who appeared for the Defendant informed the Court that they were waving their right to address the Court and applied for judgement. There was no legal representation for the Plaintiff who was himself also not in Court.
There is no doubt the fact that the Plaintiff initiated this suit purely based on the complaint of the Defendant made by way of an affidavit to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. The Plaintiff himself is a member of the Medical Profession for which the council regulates. The Plaintiff’s contention is that the facts deposed to in that affidavit of complaint are untrue and defamatory and or libelous to his character and person. A glance at the evidence of the Plaintiff under cross examination shows that it is a total destruction of the Plaintiff’s evidence in chief and a firm establishment of the very affidavit the Defedant deposed to the organization regulating the Plaintiff’s Medical profession. The Plaintiff obviously on seeing that the veil covering his mess has been removed by the explosive cross-examination of learned counsel to the Defendant sought to withdraw his claim.
It would appear that the Plaintiff only filed the suit so as to use it to shield himself from being probed or investigated by the Medical and Dental Investigating Panel or the Police against whom the Defendant had lodged a complaint. The Plaintiff abandoned his case half way, I hold the view that the most appropriate order to make in the circumstance is one dismissing the suit. I so hold. The suit is accordingly hereby dismissed for being frivolously instituted and vexatious.
Mr. Bukar: We are grateful because of the circumstances of this case, we will ask for substantial cost. We ask for N700,000.00 cost. We need sanity in this society. We put in about 14 appearances.
Court: Cost of N300,000.00 is awarded against the Plaintiff in favour of the Defendant.