Innocent Chukwuma Biography Case: Court fixes Sept 26 to determine legal status of Pan Atlantic University


A Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square, (TBS) has fixed September 26, 2024 to rule on the legal status of Pan Atlantic University (PAU) in a biography project lawsuit brought by Professor Nduka Otiono of Carleton University, Canada.

Specifically, the court is expected to determine whether PAU is a juristic entity that can be sued.

Justice Ogungbesan fixed the date after taking arguments from counsel to the claimant, Chief Uche C. Ihediwa SAN and former Attorney-General of Abia State and lawyer to the defendants, Mr. A.O Okafor.

The claimant, Prof. Nduka Otiono had sued Mrs. Josephine Effah-chukwuma, wife of a former Regional Director, Ford Foundation, late Innocent Chukwuma, and the Pan-Atlantic University over the biography of her late husband, titled “Possibilities Unlimited – A Biography of late Innocent Chukwuma”

The claimant, had in suit number LD/10395GCMW/2023 prayed the court for a declaration that the defendants breached the terms of the contract when they failed to approve the manuscript within 30 days by the 14th day of March 2023.

He also urged the court to declare the defendants’ letter dated May 8, 2023 purporting to terminate the contract between the parties as wrongful, illegal, null and void.

When the matter came up last Friday for hearing, counsel to the defendants, A.O Okafor urged the court to strike out the name of PAU from the suit for being not a person known to law and not capable of being sued.

The application was brought pursuant to Order 15 Rule 17 (1) and Order 43 Rule 1 of the high Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019; and Section p6(6) of the  Constitution.

He argued that there is no existing legal entity or person known as “Pan Atlantic University (Proprietor of Lagos Business School)” or “Pan Atlantic University”, as presently described on the Respondent’s originating processes.

He stated that, the Lagos Business School and the Lagos Business School Sustainability Programme are not legal entities or juristic persons capable of being sued.

Opposing the application, claimant’s counsel, Chief Ihediwa SAN  argued that  it is not the Rules of Court that bestow juristic personalities on corporate entities, adding that juristic personality is conferred by statutes.

He submitted that the rules of court merely provides for how categories of juristic persons may be sued.

The claimant in his statement of claims, Prof. Otiono  stated that  around mid-2021, the Ford Foundation, West Africa approached him, and offered him a ghost-writer proposal through a Request for Proposal documAfric

The Claimant stated that he strongly resisted the idea of offering his services of biographer as a ghost-writer and insisted he would rather take professional fees for the work and retain his moral right as the author of the biography while the Ford Foundation takes all the financial returns from the book as she proposed.

The Claimant averred that on or about November 2021, he negotiated a contract with the Defendants to write a 75—100,000 Biography of Late Innocent Chukwuma – titled “Possibilities Unlimited – A Biography of late Innocent Chukwuma”

The Claimant stated that executing the assignment involved engagement of assistants, extensive travel within and outside Nigeria, research, and analysis of materials on late Innocent Chukwuma’s life and times, reviewing the work of the deceased, conducting several interviews, identification of contributions to civil society, criminal justice reform, youth and women rights, among others.

The Claimant averred that Ford Foundation provided funding for the project through the defendants.

The Claimant stated that the defendants paid the claimant Seventy percent (70%) of the agreed sum.

The claimant further stated that by paragraph 8 of the Terms of Reference, the parties agreed that the balance of the 30 percent was to be paid “within 30 days of the accomplishment of the project as irrespective of whether the Ford Foundation has gone through the work in 30 days or not.

The Claimant stated that he submitted the manuscript to the Ford Foundation on 7th February 2022, adding that the Ford Foundation reviewed the manuscript in 27 days and returned same to the him with her comments.

The PAU also reviewed the manuscript and returned same to the Claimant for revision.

The Claimant averred that he revised the original manuscript incorporating relevant views of the 1st Defendant (the Approver) and the 2nd Defendant (the project manager) and returned the completed work to the Defendants on 14th March 2022.

The Claimant stated that by virtue of the Terms of Reference, the Ist Defendant had thirty (30) days from the 14th day of March 2023 to review the revised manuscript. The parties equally understood, that after thirty (30) days from the 14th day of March 2023, the Claimant would be entitled to the outstanding contractual sum and regard the project as completed.

The Claimant averred that after the expiration of the time-limit for a review of the draft, the Defendants sent a letter dated 8th May 2023 purportedly terminating the contract.

The Defendants alleged that the Claimant breached the terms of reference by a Facebook celebration of Innocent Chukwuma posted on the second anniversary of his demise by the Claimant.

The Claimant maintained that the alleged termination was null, void and of no effect given the fact that as of 8th May 2023, the reviewed manuscript had been with the Defendants for about 55 Days.

The Claimant contended that the material details of the Facebook post cited by the 1st Defendant, did not contain confidential information because the references therein were third party information and or information that were already public knowledge and were generally known to numerous persons and contained in publications available to the public.

He further stated that sometime in May 2023, the Defendants unveiled the cover of the book. He maintains that stressing that any publication of the book using his intellectual labour would violate his intellectual property, moral and inalienable right as the original Author of the work.

The Claimant avers that the extended time and extensive work on the biography project and the subsequent failure to publish the Biography as agreed, has caused him untold hardship, denying him the time and concentration to work on other professional assignments for professional advancement.

The Claimant averred that the failure of the Defendants to publish the biography inflicts irreparable damage to his professional reputation because the Claimant will be forced to breach the trust of the scores of people who generously gave their time for interviews by the Claimant for the Biography project trusting his promise that the book will be published.

The Claimant stated that all efforts to have respectable mediators related to both parties settle the matter with the Defendants proved abortive.

When his efforts at settlement were rejected by the Defendants and the Defendants also refused to pay the outstanding sum of $11,337.7, the Claimant was constrained to retain the services of Lawyers at a cost of N10,500,000.00 to ventilate his claim. 

Consequently, he is seeking the following reliefs: “A declaration that he had completed the Biography of Late Innocent Chukwuma in accordance with the terms of reference between the parties.

“A declaration that the Defendants, their servants, privies, or anyone hired by them is not entitled to use any material and or writing by the Claimant to publish a Biography of Late Innocent Chukwuma.

“A Declaration that the Claimant’s Facebook post of April 4, 2023, did not amount to breach of clause 8 of the Terms of Reference.

“A Perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants whether by themselves, their servants, agents or otherwise howsoever from plagiarizing, reproducing, or authorizing the reproduction or plagiarizing of the Claimant’s literary work and or manuscript or any part thereof in any material form whatsoever without the written consent of the Claimant.

“The sum of N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) as special and general damages.

However, in its preliminary objection, the defendants urged the court to strike out the name of 2nd defendant (Pan-Atlantic University) from the suit for being not a person known to law and not capable of being sued.

The application was brought pursuant to Order 15 Rule 17 (1) and Order 43 Rule 1 of the high Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019; and Section 6(6) of the  Constitution.

Share your story or advertise with us: Whatsapp: +2348179614306 Email:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here