A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja yesterday Thursday, June 30, 2016 ordered veteran singer, Onyeka Onwenu to tender a public apology to Chief Okoroji in Vanguard Newspapers and www.vanguardngr.com, the website of Vanguard Newspapers and also pay the sum of five million naira as damages for defamation of character to Chief Tony Okoroji, former President of PMAN and Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). The judgement was delivered by Hon Justice I. O. Akinkugbe (Mrs.)
The pair have been on warring path for the past 4 years. It all started when the songstress published an article in the Vanguard newspaper edition of October 14, 2011 claiming Okoroji diverted N3m donated by the Cross Rivers State Government towards the final burial of Christy Essien Igbokwe. A move the latter described as a deliberate attempt to malign or defame him.
She reportedly also went to the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Ikeja to report that he chased her around at night in a red Jeep in her neighbourhood with the intent to assassinate her.
Okoroji took the matter up, sued her and won the legal battle. Reacting to the verdict, Okoroji said he wished he never sued het. ‘Once again, as has happened several times before, the courts have come to my rescue proving that despite what may be said to the contrary, you can obtain justice in Nigeria. This has taken close to four years of going in and out of court but at the end of the day, I must thank Honourable Justice Akinkugbe who the Almighty has again used to do justice for her professionalism. I must also thank my lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige for his commitment and thoroughness’.
‘I have committed much of my life to fighting for the welfare of every musician in Nigeria and protecting the interest of all including Ms. Onyeka Onwenu. In the battle, I have spared myself no inconvenience or discomfort and countless times, I have had to risk my life, my reputation and the welfare of my family.
‘Working with my colleagues at COSON, we have made available to musicians across Nigeria hundreds of millions of naira as we set out with the building of the most professional, transparent and accountable organization in the history of the creative industries in Nigeria, something that was considered impossible just a few years ago.
He continued, ‘I wish I never had to take Ms. Onwenu to court. I consider every Nigerian musician including Onyeka a member of my extended family. Onyeka however left me with little choice. I went to court in self defence. Till today, I do not know what wrong I did to Onyeka Onwenu. As someone I considered a close colleague and friend, I was shocked at the level of hatred she had generated within herself to justify her all-consuming campaign of lies without foundation to destroy the one thing she knows that I cherish most; my integrity.
‘Every appeal to Ms Onwenu to reconsider what she was doing fell on deaf ears. Onyeka Onwenu has known me for many years. She knows very well that under no circumstance would I take a penny that does not belong to me but it suited her purpose to project me to the world as a thief. Onyeka knows that I am a stickler for rules and order but it made her happy to tell the world that I am lawless and a despot.
‘I know that very few people will believe this: three years ago, Onyeka Onwenu went to the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Ikeja to wickedly report that I was chasing her around at night in a red Jeep in her neighborhood with the intent to assassinate her! This crazy report with absolutely no foundation was made a few days to my birthday (December 22) and Christmas.
‘I have little doubt that the intent was to have me suffer in jail during my birthday, Christmas and New Year. It took the wisdom of the police authorities and the intervention of elders in the music industry such as Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, Prof Victor Uwaifo and Dr. Ben Ofoeze to save me from the wickedness carefully planned for me by someone I had treated with so much respect and love as my sister and friend.
‘My commitment to my colleagues in the music industry, the whole of the Arts and the Nigerian nation remains unshaken. From the work we are doing, I see a very bright future soon for the creative industries in Nigeria. How many times have I passed this road? I hope my experience will be a lesson to young Nigerians that if you keep your hands clean and do your job diligently, it does not matter what wickedness any man or woman may contrive against you, the good Lord will protect you. The harder they come, the harder they fall’.