There is no respite yet for controversial Abia journalist, Obinna Don Norman who is still being held at the Nigerian Prisons, Afara Umuahia, this time over the issuance of dud check to a hotelier, a development that has led to his former principal and benefactor, Dr Alex Otti withdrawing his support for the journalist who is also facing charges of libel at a high court.
News Critic gathered that the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, governorship candidate for Abia State in the 2019 general election, Otti has been the one picking the bills for the legal services rendered to the journalist since he was arrested by the Police in Umuahia on March 1st and remanded in prison custody on the orders of a Magistrate court following a case of ‘cyber stalking’ preferred against him by Senator T. A Orji.
It was Otti who retained the services of Kenneth Anyia, a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to fight for the release of the Abia journalist who has been having a running battle with Senator Orji family and by extension the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu led administration in the state. He spent close to two months in detention before Otti’s legal team was able to secure his release.
While the journalist is still battling in court with the Orji family, a fresh criminal charge was brought against him by a business and hotelier, Nweze Francis. This led to the re-arrest of Norman at the premises of the High Court Umuahia on June 19th, 2019 during his second appearance in court on his ongoing trial. Norman was arrested by a team of security operatives from the Police headquarters Umuahia for issuing dud to Nweze Francis, the hotelier. The check according to investigations was to cover his bill of N650, 000 which he accumulated while lodging at the hotel, Upper Graceland Hotel Umuahia. The bill also covers his accommodation for 104 days, food and drinks for himself and his visitors, according to findings.
This Newspaper also learnt that the check in question was issued by the journalist on September 18th, 2017 when he has already started having issues with his former principal, Senator Orji, who he claimed was owing him some money as his aide. Since then the hotelier it was further gathered has been making efforts to recover the debt from Norman without success.
Sources told this reporter that the hotelier reported the issue to some of Norman’s close friends and relatives including one Hon. Tony Onyenweaku, Ikenna Echerodo and also his lawyer, but all the efforts did not yield any positive result.
Faced with this disappointment, the hotel Director got wind of his ongoing trial and traced him to the court after he petitioned the Police headquarters through his lawyers, leading to his arrest. He was subsequently charged before the Magistrate court on June 27th for fraud allegation, but the court declined jurisdiction over the case, and it was transferred to the High Court, while the accused was remanded in prison custody pending when the case will come up again to hear his bail application.
On his part, Otti who has been playing the fatherly role since his ordeal started decided to withdraw his support because of the nature of his present case, which is a criminal matter. Sources disclosed that Otti’s lawyer advised him to pull out and not to get involved again in order to protect his image as a reputable banker who is knowledgeable about the implications of issuing a dud check.
‘’So Otti is no longer with him which leaves him broken and with no serious assistance in this matter, said a source. It was gathered that before Otti backed out, he went to the Abia State commissioner of Police who briefed him with details of the transaction over which the journalist was arrested. It was also alleged that Norman has formed the habit of issuing dud check without cognizance of the consequences of his action.
When he was released from prison custody over his issue with senator Orji, competent sources told News Critic in Umuahia that Otti gave the embattled journalist N1, 000, 000 (One million Naira million) to rehabilitate himself, in addition to the free legal assistance he was providing for him. Followers of the Norman and Senator Orji clash were not surprised when after his release he took to his facebook page to thank Otti and others for being there for him during his incarceration at Afara prisons. He sees himself as a prisoner of conscience.
According to investigations, the journalist who at a point was a media aide to Senator Orji started having problem with his principal when he allegedly decided to remain in Umuahia and work for a senator who lives in Abuja. Sources disclosed that despite efforts to make him see reason to move to Abuja he remained reluctant leading to a cut in his salary. At a point, Rt. Hon. Chinedu Orji was said to have intervened and gave the journalist money to travel to Abuja and sort out things with the senator.
However, at this point Ochendo as he is fondly called has taken a decision to stop his work and in the interim offered him about N700, 000 as payoff which Norman refused to take. He was said to have insisted that he should be paid the full salary scale of a legislative aide which accrued to him. It was at this point that he decided to use the media to expose certain dirty things he claimed he knew about the government of Abia state under Senator Orji and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.