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Libel: Court Orders Compass Newspaper To Pay Fayemi N2 Billion Damage

Kayode Adelowokan, Lagos

An Ado-Ekiti High Court, on Monday, December 16, 2013, has awarded the sum of N2 billion as damages against the Western Publishing Company Limited, publishers of Nigerian Compass Newspapers in a libel suit instituted by Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.

Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

Aside the N2 billion damages, the newspaper house was also ordered by the court to publish a retraction and apology to Governor Fayemi in three national dailies and on the Internet.

The judgment was in regard of a publication published by the Newspaper house in its Saturday, August 25th, 2012, issue, where it alleged that the Governor was deducting N1 billion illegally from the local government account in the state.

The journalist who wrote the story, Mr. Remi Koleoso of the Abuja Bureau of the Newspaper, was also drafted in the suit.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Cornelius Akintayo, averred that the conduct of the defendant, Nigerian Compass Newspaper, was below diligence, said Governor Fayemi had proved the six ingredients of libel among which are the personality involved, nature, mode of the publication and failure of the defendant to show remorse.

Justice Akintayo held that the cost awarded must be adequate to repair the pecuniary damage, since the conduct of the defendant was below diligence.

He therefore ordered that the Western Publishing Company Limited and Mr Remi Koleoso to retract the said publication with apology in the newspaper and two other national newspapers and Internet medium.

Also, the duo will pay the sum of N2 billion to Governor Fayemi. He also awarded another N50,000 as cost of the suit and 10 percent interest rate on the imposed fine starting from the day of judgment till the fine is paid.

Justice Akintayo said the prosecution called three witnesses and tendered 11 exhibits which were all admitted and marked accordingly. The trial Judge who said the defendants called only one witness added that the defendant also failed to counter the claims of Governor Fayemi.

Justice Akintayo affirmed that a defendant who did not object to documentary or witnesses evidence is deemed to accept guilt.

Reacting to the judgment, the claimant’s counsel, Mr Rafiu Balogun, commended the judiciary for standing by the law.

He said the defendants failed to establish the claims in the story when confronted with the facts; a development which he said was against the tenets of journalism which is premised on truth and fairness.

He said the newspaper outfit was not remorse when asked to retract the publication, stressing that rather than retract, the paper went ahead to published two other malicious stories.

Also speaking, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Fayemi who was a prosecution witness in the case, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, said the judgment would serve as a lesson to those who like to engage in reckless and malicious allegations. He also advised journalists to always cross check their facts before publications.

He said Governor Fayemi cherishes his name and integrity, hence he had to approach the court to redress the damage done to his reputation by the Compass Newspaper’s malicious publication.

“We are happy that the court has finally given its judgment in the case which has again established the truth”, Oyebode said.

It is recalled that Governor Fayemi had, had through his counsel, R.O. Balogun and Co, sued Nigerian Compass newspaper for libel and sought  N10 billion as damages for the libelous publication.

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