Updated: Libel: Court awards N2b damages against Compass in suit by Fayemi

The court, in the ruling delivered on Monday morning, found Nigerian Compass guilty of libel in the story entitled: HELP: Fayemi is deducting N1b from councils monthly

An Ado-Ekiti High Court on Monday awarded N2 billion as damages against Western Publishing Company Limited, publishers of Compass newspapers, in a libel suit instituted by the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Aside the N2 billion damages, the newspaper house was also ordered by the court to publish a retraction and apology to Fayemi in three national dailies and on the Internet.
The judgment was in regard of a malicious publication published by the Compass newspaper in its August 25, 2012 issue, where it alleged that the governor was deducting N1 billion illegally from the local government account in the state.
Remi Koleoso of the Abuja Bureau of the newspaper, who wrote the malicious story, was also joined in the suit.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Cornelius Akintayo averred that the conduct of Compass newspaper was below diligence.
Akintayo said 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 Western Publishing Company Limited and Koleoso must retract the said publication with apology in Compass newspaper and two other national newspapers and the Internet.
He also awarded another N50,000 as cost of the suit and 10 per cent interest rate on the imposed fine, starting from the day of judgment till it 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 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, Rafiu Balogun, commended the judiciary for standing by the law.
Balogun said the defendants failed to establish the claims in the story when confronted with the facts, a development that was against the tenets of journalism, which is premised on truth and fairness.
He said the newspaper outfit did not show remorse when asked to retract the publication, stressing that rather than retract, the paper went ahead to publish two other malicious stories.
Also speaking, the Chief Press Secretary to Fayemi, who was a prosecution witness in the case, Olayinka Oyebode, said the judgment would serve as a lesson to those who like to engage in reckless and malicious allegations.
Oyebode also advised journalists to always cross check their facts before publishing.
He said 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 the Compass newspaper for libel and sought N10 billion as damages for the libelous publication.

Our earlier story
An Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State High Court has awarded N2 billion damages against Nigerian Compass newspaper for publishing a libellous story on the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
The court, in the ruling delivered on Monday morning, found Nigerian Compass guilty of libel in the story entitled: HELP: Fayemi is deducting N1b from councils monthly.
The story was published on August 25, 2012.
The newspaper outfit is owned by a former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Details soon.