The defendants will pay Governor Fayemi the sum of N2 billion, and 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.
An Ado-Ekiti High Court, on Monday awarded the sum of N2 billion as damages against the Western Publishing Company Limited, publishers of Compass Newspapers in a libel suit instituted by 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 Compass Newspaper in its Saturday, August 25, 2012 edition, 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 story was also joined in the suit.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Cornelius Akintayo averred that the conduct of the defendant (Compass Newspaper) was below diligence. He said Governor Fayemi was able to prove 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. Koleoso must retract the said publication with apology in Compass Newspaper and two other national newspapers and the Internet.
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 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 did not show 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,” Mr. Oyebode said.
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