A Federal High Court sitting in Awka has adjourned further proceedings in a suit between Madonna University, Okija and six students and staff of the university till the 4th of next month.
When the case was called up today, the lead counsel to Madonna University who is the Prosecutor, Authur Obi Okafor (SAN) pleaded with the court for an extension of time to enable him to tidy some issues.
Justice Babatunde Quadiri who presided over the court granted the application and adjourned the case till next month.
It was gathered that the application was due to ongoing efforts to resolve the matter amicably among the various parties.
The students and the staff of the University are standing trial for an online publication they made which Madonna university deemed unhealthy to the image of the institution.
They were arrested in January 2019 and kept in detention until July 4th same year when they were granted bail as protests and agitations over their continued detention became intense.
In December 2019, the University through its counsel, had applied to withdraw the charges against 3 persons out of the seven persons charged for cybercrime and malicious online publication, on the grounds that they had written to apologize.
But in a swift reaction, the students, Blackson Nwokoma, Harmelson Okpara, and Jonathan Abuno who spoke to our Correspondent had said the University lied as they neither wrote nor apologized to the school.
It was gathered today that negotiations have reached advanced stage between the school and the accused persons for the charges to be dropped as there appeared to be no will to further prosecute the matter.
Counsel to some of the students, Barr Chinedu Igwe said what is important now is for the charges to be dropped so that the students can focus on their future.
“It does not matter whether it was the students that apologized for the school to drop the charges or it was the school that just dropped the charges. What is important is that at this point, all parties have understood the need to move on from this. These are young people who have their lives to pursue and this whole process is setting them back. I believe by the next adjournment, the University will withdraw the charges and allow these children proceed with their lives,” he noted.
During the protests last year over the detention of the students, there were calls especially from families of the detained students, for parents to withdraw their children from the university in solidarity with the accused students.
But a father to one of the students, Christopher Onyejekwe who had initially called out the owner of the university for swearing to keep the students behind bars, today said there was actually no need for such action against the school.
“This is a minor issue and I don’t think it should be taken that far. I am not happy that some parents are withdrawing their children because of this. Many of them are my friends and people I cried to when it was too bad for me. I have reconciled with the school and I believe they will bring back their children. What I am saying is that Madonna should keep to their words and issue Certificates of graduation to these students so that they can proceed on their youth service,” he said.
Onyejekwe, however, advised the University Management to look inwards and fish out persons within the school who through their actions and dispositions exhibited tendencies that are inimical to the progress of the school.