Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Court slams N5 million fine on APC chieftain over libellous publication

A former university vice chancellor took the publisher to court.
An Ogun State High Court, Ilaro Judicial Division, has ordered a
chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sina Oduntan, to pay
N5 million as damages over a publication in his newspaper.
Mr. Oduntan was a spokesperson for the defunct Congress for
Progressive Change, CPC, in Ogun; one of the parties that merged to
form the APC.
The defendant, who is a publisher, was dragged to court by the
immediate past Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Abeokuta,
Oluwafemi Balogun, who sought redress against the defendant for
allegedly publishing a false story against him.
The Despatch Newspaper belonging to the defendant had in its
June-July, 2010 edition published two stories in its front page and
page 8 titled "Something Rotten: UNNAB VC must show his pay packet"
and "UNNAB Contractgate: How N2 billion IGR was raised, squandered"
The publications accused the former university boss of using public
funds to enrich his pockets by acquiring a House on No 8/10 in GRA,
Ibara, Abeokuta for N50 million within two years of serving in the
university. The publications also added that the claimant deployed
N300 million loan to build a shabby CENHURD village and also bought a
house in Abuja for N200 million.
Mr. Balogun, in his argument, told the court that the said stories
caused him "embarrassment, putting him in odium, casting aspersion on
his character, reputation and goodwill before the reading public."
The judge, Tajudeen Okunsokan, while delivering his judgment, said the
defendants did not file any evidence of defence, thereby disallowing
the cross-examination of the claimant's three witnesses in the suit
no. AB/227/10.
Mr. Okunsokan said that having considered all the facts before him, he
upheld the evidence of Mr. Balogun that the publications were not only
libellous, but were untrue and defamatory. He relied on what he called
the six essential ingredients of libel as stipulated in the case of
Guardian Newspapers Ltd and others vs. Rev. Pastor C. I Aje.
The Judge cited cases to declare the evidence by the claimant's three
witnesses as unchallenged, un contradictory and un controverted, and
therefore ruled that "the testimonies of these witnesses are also, in
my view, credible and I so uphold."
Also granting the prayers of the claimant, the judge posited that the
defendants, by themselves, their servants, agents, and or privies be
perpetually restrained from publishing further defamatory articles or
statement against the claimants.
He averred that the defendants did not retract the malicious statement
as demanded by the claimant and never appeared in court to file
evidence in support of their publications to result in the litigation.

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