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Consultancy firm sues government officials over defamation

Consultancy firm sues government officials over defamation

ABH demands 174.6 mln birr in compensation

ABH Partners, a health consultancy firm, has sued five government officials on the basis of defaming its goodwill and reputation following communiques the defendants have dispatched through social and mainstream media regarding a postgraduate program that Jimma University run in partnership with ABH in its Campus in Addis Ababa; the plaintiff has claimed 174.6 million birr in compensation for damages caused to its operation due to unlawful and misguided statements that the defendants released to the public.

The firm sued five officials from the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA), including the head of the Agency, Andualem Admassie (PhD) who was the former CEO of Ethio Telecom, together with Tamirat Motta, deputy director of the Agency, Tarekegn Nigussu, communication head, Abiy Debay, accreditation director, and Solomon Tadesse, head of the legal department.

The debacle between the two began following a statement released by the Agency via social media initially and later via a press conference, where it said ABH’s partnership with Jimma University is illegal and that Jimma University has no right to operate a campus outside of its main location in Jimma town. According to charge document, both of the above allegations have no legal basis since council of ministries’ regulation clearly permit public universities to both seek partnership with private entities and to operate another education campuses outside of their home town.

However, the charge alleges that the five defendants, in spite of repeated written and verbal request from the plaintiff to cease and desist, they have continued to falsely cast bad light on the ABH and its partner university and the educational program they are running in Addis Ababa.           

Established in 2007, ABH, after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Jimma University, has been involved in trainings and researches activities with latter.

In its earlier statement to the media a week ago, HERQA has indicated that ABH, which is a consultancy firm, has been receiving and training students in Addis Ababa. In this regard, students at ABH have been paying up to 75,000 birr per term with the payment being shared between Jimma University and ABH, unfairly.

Apart from that, HERQA asserted in the press conference that increasing focus of Jimma University on its training program in Addis Ababa might distract it from its main responsibility of being a public university and not a privately owned, profit oriented education institution.  

ABH argues that the statement from the Agency is false and it has affected its good reputation. “It has created confusion and mistrust among our students and parents.”

In this regard, ABH asked for the compensation of the aforementioned amount. In addition to demanding the Agency retracts its statement.

Source from the Agency confirmed to The Reporter about the legal actions taken by ABH and said that they have received their letter.

Established in 2003 as a regulatory body, HERQA is responsible for overseeing the education sector. HERQA was established to monitor and regulate higher education institutions and was also given a mandate to follow-up on the implementation of the circular.