Air Peace Client Cries Out Against Acts of Intimidation, Harrasement By Airline, Police, Files Counterclaim in Air Peace’s N270m Defamation Lawsuit, Begs International Community, Others, to Protect His Family
On 28 September 2020, Air Peace Limited, and three of its employees; Captain Horace Miller-Jaja, Adedoyin Adeniji and Deborah Bazuaye instituted Suit No. ID/ADR/1570/2020 against Christopher Ogbonna, the husband of one of their registered customers, Mrs Nneka Ogbonna, and claimed a total of N270m for defamation against him.
The gravament of their complaint was that starting on the 24th day of July 2020, Mr Christopher Ogbonna falsely and maliciously published defamatory material against the Claimants using his Twitter handle @qriscero and the hashtag #getpeacefornneka.
The Claimants contended that the words used by Christopher Ogbonna in their natural, fair and ordinary meaning meant and were intended, and were understood to mean that Air Peace and its staff oppress and intimidate people/customers and have no respect for their customers, that Captain Horace Miller-Jaja, who has been a pilot for 32 years is wicked and cruel and has no respect for customers, and that Adedoyin Adeniji and Deborah Bazuaye are extortionists and as lawyers, that can lead to their names being struck out as legal practitioners.
In his defence to the lawsuit, Christopher Ogbonna pleaded the defence of truth and justification. He further pleaded that the statements which he made using his Twitter handle @qriscero in their natural, fair and ordinary meaning meant, were intended and were understood by all responsible persons who read them to mean that Air Peace Limited and its staff oppressed and intimidated his wife who was one of their registered paying customers and had no respect whatsoever for her, that Captain Horace Millar-Jaja who had been a pilot for 38 years as at December 10, 2019 and who labelled the defendant’s wife (who was seated on her seat with her seatbelt fastened) a hijacker (a criminal) who had hijacked the aircraft and ordered her unlawful disembarkation was, indeed, wicked, cruel and had no respect whatsoever for his wife.
He also stated in the court papers that when his wife tried to settle the matter with Air Peace amicably, Deborah Bazuaye and Adedoyin Adeniji actually tried to extort over N3,000,000.00 (Three Million Naira) from his wife under pain of continued detention of her international passport by the Nigeria Police (which they achieved since his wife’s international passport remained in the custody of the Nigeria Police for over 8 months) and her being charged to court for a false, trumped up criminal offence.
Christopher Ogbonna also filed a N303m counterclaim in which he also sought 13 declaratory reliefs as well as other reliefs against the Claimants and their counsel, John Mbanefo Ikwuegbue, whom he accused of gross professional misconduct in the court proceedings.
The matter was scheduled for further proceedings on February 22, 2021 before Hon. Justice Fadipe at the High Court of Lagos State sitting at Ikeja. However, the court did not sit, and a new date, 14 April 2021, was communicated by the court registrar. Judiciary correspondents were able to confirm that despite having been served with Christopher Ogbonna’s Statement of Defence and Counterclaim since November 2020, Air Peace Limited and the other Claimants seemed to have abandoned the entire case as their counsel had not appeared on any previous court sitting date and they are yet to file both their Reply to Christopher Ogbonna’s Statement of Defence and their Statement of Defence to his counterclaim.
When approached by the journalists outside the court premises for comments on the case and the recusal of a judge of the Federal High Court in the fundamental rights action filed on behalf of his wife, Christopher Ogbonna stated that: “as you are aware, I cannot comment on the current proceedings or any other proceedings that are sub-judice (that is, currently pending before the court).
“However, in relation to FHC/L/CS/1206 – Nneka Ogbonna v. Air Peace and the criminal charge FHC/L/15C/2021 – Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Nneka Ogbonna which were formerly pending before the Hon. Justice (Prof.) Obiozor who recused himself, I have read some obviously sponsored, incomplete and biased reportage in the media space. I want to use this opportunity to set the records straight.
“In defending the fundamental rights enforcement application which my wife filed at the Federal High Court, Air Peace Limited, falsely stated under oath that my wife was a hijacker who had sent or delivered explosives and that I was a cyber attacker who was stalking them by calling public attention via social media to the injustices meted out against her on 10 December 2019. In order to lay these false and baseless criminal allegations against my wife and me to rest once and for all, on 8 November 2020, our lawyers from the Law Firm of (Akandu, Ezebube & Kalu Legals) applied to the IGP Monitoring Unit of the Nigeria Police whose officers had conducted a comprehensive investigation into the incident of 10 December 2019. We were informed that the police report had been completed and sent to the Legal Section, Force CIID, Police Headquarters Abuja (the Legal Section) for finalisation. All our efforts to get the officers of the Legal Section to release the police report prepared by the IGP Monitoring Unit in time for our lawyers to file it in court in response to Air Peace’s criminal allegations against my wife and me proved abortive.
“However, despite the fact that the Legal Section refused to release the police investigation report which my wife’s lawyers had requested for, a lawyer and policeman from the Legal Section, CSP Joseph Nwadike, entered appearance for the IGP whom my wife had sued as a nominal party in her application to enforce her fundamental rights and filed court processes which included a counter affidavit deposed to by another policeman from the Legal Section, Inspector Danjuma Opii. The counter affidavit contained deliberate misstatements of facts and outright lies which contradicted even undisputed facts and sought to confirm the unfounded and baseless criminal allegations which Air Peace Ltd. had made against my wife and me.
“Furthermore, in order, to lend credence to Air Peace Ltd.’s allegations that my wife was a hijacker, CSP Joseph Nwadike also maliciously filed a frivolous two-count criminal charge against my wife in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This singular, unlawful and malicious act of abuse of power by CSP Joseph Nwadike has now given Nigeria the ignoble and shameful record of being the only country in the world where an alleged aircraft hijacker was allowed to roam freely among the populace for over a year by the police before being charged to court.
“When my wife and I were confronted with these shocking acts of abuse of office by CSP Joseph Nwadike and Inspector Danjuma Opii, we opted, in addition to filing appropriate responses in court, to discharge our constitutional duty under section 24(e) of the 1999 Constitution to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order by reporting the unlawful conduct of these two law enforcement officers to the appropriate and lawful agencies. Accordingly, on my instructions, the law firm of Akandu, Ezebube and Kalu Legals wrote a petition titled “RE: ATTEMPT BY INSPECTOR DANJUMA OPII AND JOSEPH NWADIKE (ESQ.) TO SUBVERT AND PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE, AND TO OCCASION A MISCARIAGE OF JUSTICE IN ON-GOING PURELY CIVIL COURT PROCEEDINGS IN FAVOUR OF AIR PEACE LIMITED – URGENT PETITION FOR INTERVENTION AND INVESTIGATION” which was sent to the Inspector General of Police, CP Augustine Sanomi Head, Legal Section Force CIID, the Nigeria Police Complaints Response Unit (CRU), the Chairman, Police Service Commission, the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, the House Committee on Police Affairs, and the National Human Rights Commission.
“Having discharged our constitutional responsibilities to escalate the unlawful actions of these two law enforcement officers to appropriate and lawful agencies, my wife, our lawyers and I were eagerly looking forward to a determination of the substantive matter on the merit at the Federal High Court before the Hon. Justice (Prof.) Austine Chuka Obiozor whose reputation as an erudite, courageous and incorruptible judge precedes him. However, on 16 February 2021 when the matter was slated for substantive hearing, CSP Joseph Nwadike, in a desperate and spirited attempt to misinform the court, draw attention away from his acts of abuse of office, and to frustrate the hearing of my wife’s fundamental rights application on the merits, started whipping up sentiments about the propriety of the petition which we had written to appropriate and lawful agencies in the discharge of our constitutional responsibilities under section 24(e) of the 1999 Constitution. He claimed that the matter was sub-judice (i.e., already pending before the court) and our lawyer, Ngozi Akandu of Akandu, Ezebube and Kalu Legals had engaged in professional misconduct by writing the petition to appropriate and lawful agencies. Unfortunately, he succeeded and Hon. Justice (Prof.) Austine Chuka Obiozor, thereafter, recused himself from both the fundamental rights matter and the criminal matter.
“While we are deeply saddened by the fact that the discharge of our constitutional duty as Nigerian citizens has cost us an opportunity for my wife’s fundamental rights application to be heard on the merits before such a competent judge, the facts and the evidence we presented before the court has not changed. We commend our lawyer, Ngozi Akandu of Akandu, Ezebube and Kalu, for the rare courage and patriotic tenacity he displayed in ensuring that these two law enforcement officers are held fully accountable for their actions despite the odds. We are also confident that the substantive matter will shortly be assigned to a new judge who will judiciously and expeditiously determine the issues on the merits.
“However, my wife and I were shocked by the baseless criminal proceedings which were maliciously instituted by CSP Joseph Nwadike against my wife in utter bad faith and abuse of office.
“Accordingly, we humbly urge the Inspector General of Police and other appropriate and lawful agencies copied on our petition to expedite their investigation into the actions of CSP Joseph Nwadike and Danjuma Opii in this matter. A situation where law enforcement officers (state actors) can be incentivised to abuse their office and maliciously deploy criminal proceedings against private citizens solely for the purpose of bullying, harassing and intimidating them is the epitome of executive lawlessness and a precursor to anarchy.
“We firmly believe that the principle of sub-judice was never intended as a cloak with which to cover unlawful acts of abuse of office by law enforcement officers or as a deterrent against the discharge of constitutional duty by Nigerian citizens.
“My wife is currently in the United States with our new-born daughter and she is utterly terrified to return to Nigeria, a country she calls home because of the actions of sponsored state actors who are actively terrorising my family in the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The actions of these sponsored state actors are also a direct threat to the life of our new-born daughter who is a United States citizen. Therefore, I am humbly appealing to the United States President, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and, indeed, the international community to please intervene, protect my wife and save the life of my new-born daughter by granting my wife who is currently lawfully in the United States, leave to remain in the United States until the current onslaught of police persecution by state actors and their sponsors passes and she can safely return to Nigeria to clear her name.
“My wife is innocent. She was not unruly, she is not a hijacker, she did not hijack any aircraft and she was in no position to delay Air Peace Flight 7210 from Lagos to Warri since she was not at the controls of the aircraft.
“Captain Horace Millar-Jaja could have discharged his responsibilities as a pilot by flying the aircraft at any time. Rather, he preferred to delay other passengers in his pursuit of personal vendetta against my wife for having the audacity to tell him to stop shouting at her.
“We are determined to pursue this matter to a just and logical conclusion, but we cannot do it alone. I have sold my land and other properties just to raise funds to fight this grave injustice against my family. I believe that regardless of any other failing or inadequacies a man might have, he has only two barest minimum obligations to his family – to provide for them and to protect them. I fully intend to discharge the obligation to protect my family, and I am humbly calling on well-meaning Nigerians to join us and stand by us.
“We are telling the truth and we have overwhelming video and documentary evidence to back up all our claims. All we want is for justice to prevail, fair and square.
“Accordingly, we are also humbly calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Honourable members of the National Assembly, the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General of the Federation, civil society groups, journalists and, indeed, every individual who shares our passion for truth, justice, fairness and equity to please come to our aid.
“No individual or business entity however, affluent, influential or politically connected should be allowed to sponsor state actors into corrupting the machinery of justice for the sole purpose of terrorising, harassing, bullying and intimidating private Nigerian citizens.
“That is not who we are as a people and that is certainly not the foundation on which this great country was built.”