Alex Enumah in Abuja
Media personality, Mosunmola Abudu, has lost in the N100 million libel suit she filed against a journalist, Oluyemisi Wada.
Justice TA Oyekan-Abdullai of a Lagos State High Court in a recent judgment refused to grant Mo Abudu’s request of N100 million being compensation in general damages for libel, on the grounds that the claimant was unable to substantiate her claim of defamation against the defendant.
Abudu had on December 21, 2011 slammed a whopping N100 million defamation suit against Wada for publishing in the THISDAY Newspaper an article said to her maligned her person.
According to Abudu in the suit with number: LD/2278/11, Wada had committed the said act of defamation when she caused to be published in THISDAY Newspaper or September 20, 2009 at pages 94 and 96 the article titled: ‘Mute Voices,’ wherein some false allegations were said to have been made against the claimant.
Abudu said she was accused of having no relationship or dealings with some street children her foundation raised funds for, adding that she was also alleged to have misappropriated the said funds so raised; and that she manipulated the street children in order to defraud them.
She also claimed that the publication accused her of using her position in the society to defraud the street children.
The claimant said following the said publication by Wada, she received several calls and texts messages from professional colleagues, and business associates, adding that her reputation was affected by the said publication.
But in his judgment delivered on May 3, 2019, a Certified True Copy (CTC) of which was seen by THISDAY, Justice Oyekan-Abdullai held that though publication is an essential ingredients in the tort of defamation, there must be proof that a third party saw the words in the publication as defamatory.
Justice Oyekan-Abdullai further held that the failure of the claimant to lead evidence beyond just publication was fatal to her case.
According to the judge, merely giving evidence of the defamatory material is not enough in the case of libel, adding that the publication must be pleaded and testified upon before it can be regarded as proved.
He said, “It is settled law that in proof of publication of libelous material to a third party, such a third party must not only be identifiable, same must also be easily identified.
“Having not called Dr. Doyinsola Abiola as averred to testify as proof of a third party that read the libelous publication, I, therefore, hold that the claimant did not lead evidence that the alleged defamatory words as contained has affected her reputation in the eyes of a third party”.
The judge also agreed with the submission of the defendant that true statement written about a claimant is not defamatory.
He noted that both the claimant and the defendant agreed as to the fact in the said defamatory publication.
He also upheld the submission of the defendant on fair comment and justification in his defence of allegation of defamation.
“I am of a firm view that the defendant has been able to sufficiently establish the existence of the facts, which are real and were not distorted or invented. It is not considered libelous,” he said
On the issue of malice, the judge while noting that the facts were not enough to prove malice said, “malice could not be inferred in the circumstances of this case having regard to the defence of fair comments properly made out by the defendant, which the claimant failed to rebut.
In conclusion, the judge held that, “where it is determined that the words complained of do not constitute the tort of defamation it becomes unnecessary to consider any defences that may be available to the defendant. There is therefore no need to consider issues of damages.
“Since the claim for damages and injunctions are founded on the principal claim and unless the principal claim succeeds, the ancillary claim shall fail. It follows therefore that there is no basis for the reward of damages”.
“On the whole, this suit is devoid of merit and it is hereby dismissed. I award no cost”, the judge held.
Justice Oyekan-Abdullai however advised the parties, whom he sees as friends, to avoid fighting and unnecessary rivalry but embrace love, which according to him is the primary essence on which friendship is built upon.
Justice Oyekan-Abdullai urged the litigants avoid further rancour and move to renew and solidify their friendship.