Zinox Technologies, a leading information and communications technology firm in Nigeria, has slammed a N2 billion suit on Premium Times, an online news medium, for a series of defamatory publications against the company, its chairman, Leo Stan Ekeh and other officials of the company.
Joined in the suit filed by the law chambers of Chukwuma Ekomaru (SAN) are Premium Times Services Limited; the medium’s publisher and chief executive officer, Dapo Olorunyomi; managing editor, Musikilu Mojeed and reporter/head, business and economy desk, Bassey Udo who authored the publications.
In a well-publicized move, the management of Zinox had given a seven-day deadline to the publishers of Premium Times to retract the offending publications against the company and its officials or face a legal action.
And faced with the non-compliance of the medium, Zinox had instituted a defamation suit in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, against the newspaper and its management team.
According to the statement of claims filed by the plaintiff, the offending materials include a September 15th 2016 publication titled: EFCC quizzes Zinox Computers Boss, 4 others over alleged 170 million contract fraud; an October 9th 2016 publication titled: Attorney General wades into 170 million contract fraud allegedly involving Zinox Computers and a May 2nd 2017 publication titled: 170 Million contract fraud: Zinox Computers has case to answer, court rules.
Zinox held that the publications are libelous, malicious and have discredited and damaged the reputation of the company in the eyes of the general public. For instance, in the September 15th, 2016 article titled: EFCC Quizzes Zinox Computers Boss, 4 Others Over Alleged Fraud, Premium Times had stated, “However, bank documents seen by this newspaper showed transfers of monies between FIRS account at the CBN and the fake account as well as approvals by top officials of Zinox Technologies for disbursement from the account to Zinox bank’s accounts and those of the suspects.”
The Management of Zinox has consistently denied being involved in any transaction leading to this publication and further denied ever receiving any monies into its accounts as stated by Premium Times. Thus, with the case now filed against them, the onus is on the Management of Premium Times to prove the veracity of their article or be held accountable for same, for which they would likely pay huge compensation as damages suffered by Zinox for the libelous publications.
Among the reliefs being sought by the plaintiff against Premium Times is the sum of N2B as damages for the libelous and malicious publications; an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants or their agents from further publications of a similar nature; a public apology published in Premium Times for two uninterrupted months as well as retraction of the afore-mentioned articles; an order of the Court directing the removal of all offending publications concerning the plaintiffs or any of its officers online and on social media as well as the sum of N10m being the cost of the court action.
Zinox’s suit against Premium Times arose from the on-going prosecution of Benjamin Joseph, Managing Director of an Ibadan-based firm, Citadel Oracle Concepts before an Abuja High Court, for giving the Nigerian Police false and misleading information after rigorous investigation following his petition in 2013 regarding a business transaction with their authorized representative, Princess Kama and foremost ICT products distributors, Technology Distributions Ltd (TD). A forensic analysis had confirmed that he actually signed certain documents, including a board resolution, which was the basis of his petition, a fact he had suppressed in his petition.
In the words of Gideon Ayogu, Head of Corporate Communications at Zinox, TD is a totally different company from Zinox with different directors, shareholders, management team and a different line of business and Zinox was not in any way involved in the transaction that culminated in Joseph’s arraignment and prosecution by the Nigerian Police for false petitioning and deceit before an Abuja High Court.
“It is important to note that in the entire transaction leading up to this case, in all the above investigations and reports, Zinox Technologies Ltd. was not in any way involved. The transaction only involved Technology Distributions Ltd. and its staff, of whom the reports of the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU) and other agencies had absolved TD and its staff of any liabilities, after extensive investigations since 2013 that traversed the SFU, the Nigerian Police Headquarters, Abuja; and the EFCC, Abuja. Yet, Premium Times kept spewing out spurious stories as if Technology Distributions and its staff were under investigations or facing criminal charges. Also, Leo Stan Ekeh was not involved in the said transaction and the investigations.
“Leo Stan Ekeh has never met with Mr. Benjamin Joseph, the Managing Director of Citadel Oracle Concepts and neither Ekeh or any other official of Zinox has had any form of business transaction with the said company. This raises questions on the motive behind Premium Times’ continued campaign of calumny against Ekeh which appears a cheap attempt at extortion.
“This is why in the online publications, the photographs of Ekeh is displayed and Zinox is used as the caption, even when the company has no bearing with the story. This is blackmail. There is no other explanation for this other than blackmail.”
Premium Times is expected to appear before the court within eight days after the service of the court processes on them.