By Jude Atupulazi
The six students and one lecturer of Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State, were last Wednesday told they would have to hang on a bit more for their freedom following the adjournment of their matter to March 27this year.
It was a day everyone expected their case to be withdrawn following agreement by both prosecution and defense teams to formally withdraw charges against the students and one lecturer known as Madonna Seven.
They had been standing trial on criminal defamation brought against them by the Madonna University Management since February 2019, following a publication by the seven on social media which the University saw as defamatory and harmful to the image of the institution.
But at the last hearing last month at the Federal High Court, Awka, both counsels had agreed to have the matter withdrawn. However, at the resumed hearing last Wednesday, the prosecution team led by Bar Arthur Obi Okafor, cited its inability to tie up some loose ends and pleaded that the matter be adjourned for two weeks to enable them withdraw the charges against the seven.
The presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri, granted the application and adjourned the matter to March 27, 2020.
Speaking to Fides after the court proceedings, the defense counsel, Mr. Christopher Igwe, said although he had expected the matter to be concluded that day, with the charges dropped, he was hopeful that everything would come to a satisfactory end on the next adjourned date, March 27, 2020, with all the paper work concluded.
‘The matter was to be withdrawn totally on Wednesday, but signing of the relevant documents caused further shift of the case. I’m however optimistic that it will end on March 27, 2020.
‘The information at our disposal is that by the time we come back at the adjourned date, the Attorney General of the Federation and others would have signed the necessary documents setting the defendants free,’ he said.
For his part, a parent of one of the defendants, Chief Christopher Onyejekwe, expressed dissatisfaction for the delay and called on the Catholic bishops and priests to wade in and talk to the proprietor of Madonna University, Fr Emmanuel Edeh, to allow the students to go and do their national youth service.
He however expressed happiness that the students’ ordeal was gradually coming to an end, noting that the boys had suffered so much that what they needed most was kindness from the authorities of the Madonna University.
‘Fr. Ede should be made to show love to these students, even if they offended him in any way. He is old enough to be their grandfather and he should act as a father to all of them,’ Onyejekwe said.