By Martha Agas
A Cleric, Rev Isaac Newton, has dragged Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), International Federation of Women Lawyers(FIDA), and 11 others to court over alleged defamation of character.
In the suit filed in October 2018, at an Upper Area Court, Kasuwan Nama in Jos, the cleric accused NAWOJ and others of publishing news items on radio, television and social media, linking him with sexual molestation of 20 female minors placed in his care.
He was also accused of subjecting the minors to hard labour under the supervision of males, in an orphanage he (accused) ran.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the case had been adjourned four times, due to protests by Messrs Joseph Danboyi and Solomon Maren, the defense counsels, over improper service to their clients.
The case, in one instance, was also adjourned following the failure of the complainant to appear in court, a condition imposed on him by the defendants “due to the gravity of the matter”.
When the case came up for hearing on Monday, two witnesses of the complainant, Miss Patience Joseph and Mr Joseph Pam, former residents of the orphanage, appeared before the court to give their testimonies.
Pam, in his testimony, claimed that he first heard of the accusations in the media.
According to him, one of the accused persons, Nicodemus Bawa, organized a meeting in Jos for former residents of the orphanage, to discuss reports of alleged sexual harassment by the cleric.
“I refused to partake in the discussions because it was not true,” he told the court.
Joseph, on her part, alleged that Nicodemus bribed her to testify that she left the centre because of alleged sexual assault by the cleric.
The witness said that she left the facility because of pressure from relations who wanted her to return home to take care of her sick grandmother.
After listening to the witnesses, the Chief Magistrate, Mohammed Yahaya, granted accelerated hearing for the case, but was forced to adjourn till March 28 because of the valedictory session for lawyers.
NAN reports that defamation of character, a criminal offence under section 373 of the criminal code, carries a one year imprisonment on conviction. (NAN)