Court dismisses Gov. Chime’s N1.5 bn libel suit against opponent, Guardian newspaper

Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by Gov. Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, challenging the judgment of a Lagos High court in a libel suit against his political opponent.

Mr. Chime had instituted a N1.5 billion libel suit against Okechukwu Ezea, his opponent in the 2007 gubernatorial election.

The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. is also a respondent.

Mr. Chime had claimed that Mr. Ezea defamed his character on page seven of the Guardian newspaper of Aug. 14, 2007, over alleged plots to kill him.

Mr. Chime had in his statement of claim, accused Mr. Ezea of addressing a press conference in Abuja in August, 2007 which, he said, was attended by representatives of many media organisations.

Mr. Chime said that at the press conference, Mr. Ezea accused him of plotting to kill him.

The governor averred that his personal reputation had been tarnished, adding that he had suffered considerable distress and embarrassment from the assertion.

He had demanded N1 billion as damages from Ezea and N500,000 from the Guardian Newspapers Ltd. as damages.

Justice Kazeem Alogba of a Lagos High Court had dismissed the suit for lack of merit, and awarded a cost of N100, 000 against Chime.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the governor, through his Counsel, Gbolahan Elias, had appealed the decision of the lower court.

The appellate court in its lead judgment, delivered by Justice Rita Pemu, held that the appeal lacked merit and could not be sustained.

The appellate court held that the governor ought to have called witnesses who attended a press conference where the defamatory statements were allegedly uttered.

The court upheld the argument of Mr. Ezea’s Counsel, Joseph Nwobike.

The court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the appellant failed to prove that Ezea (the first respondent) uttered the defamatory statements.

Consequently, the court awarded cost of N30, 000 against the appellant.

The governor had, in the appeal, submitted that the lower court erred in law when it held that the appellant failed to prove that Ezea uttered the defamatory statements.

He further submitted that the lower court erred when it held that the words published in the Guardian newspaper were incapable of defaming his character.

(NAN)


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