⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Hon. Justice James Omo-Agege (RTD) v. John Oghojafor & Ors. (2010) – CA
⦿ LITE HOLDING
⦿AREA OF LAW
HON. JUSTICE JAMES OMO-AGEGE (RTD)
JOHN OGHOJAFOR & ORS. (2010)
(2010) JELR 33705 (CA)
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Ali Abubakar Babandi Gumel, J.C.A
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
In an amended statement of claim deemed properly filed and served on 30th July, 2003, the Appellant, as the Plaintiff claimed for the following reliefs: –
1a) The sum of N100,000,000.00 (one Hundred Million Naira) on the footing of aggravated and exemplary damages for libel contained in pages 32 and 33 of the Insider Weekly No. 39 dated 30th September, 2002;
b) A retraction of the said publication accompanied with an unconditional apology in 3 subsequent publications of the 3rd Defendant’s Weekly Magazine; and
c) An injunction to restrain the defendant and each of them by themselves or by their servants, agents or otherwise howsoever, from the publication of the said words or any of them or similar words.
In a statement of defence dated 14th February, 2003, earlier on filed in response to the main statement of claim, the Respondents, as the defendants, denied the claims of the Appellant and called on the lower Court to dismiss same in their entirety.
Upon this background the case went to trial.
The case of the Plaintiff/Appellant was dismissed.
This is an appeal by the Plaintiff/Appellant.
1. Whether or not the defendant proved the defamation of libel?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. An analysis of the naked facts in paragraphs 9-11 of the amended statement of claim shows that the Appellant was reporting the feelings and attitude of other persons towards him after the publication of the alleged libelous news report. For example in paragraph 9 it was averred in part that: – 9. “By the said words in their natural and ordinary meaning the defendants meant, and were understood to mean…” One may wish to ask “meant, and were understood” by who? The pleadings did not answer this poser and also none of the evidence adduced before the lower Court manages to have done so. Also in paragraph 10, it was averred that the Appellant was over burdened by incessant phone-calls, letters and personal calls from concerned friends and members of the public. For example, no transcripts of telephone calls, other calls records, letters or other record to show that this averment was no more than a mere statement was adduced in the course of this trial. Also no such members of the public or “concerned friends” were brought to testify. In my humble view it is this evidence that is significant or crucial for a successful prosecution of a libel action. In civil litigations, a plaintiff succeeds only on the strength of the case he is able to establish and not on the weakness of the case of the defendant(s). The Supreme Court has consistently remained steadfast that publication in its technical sense was always an essential ingredient of libel.
ii. In view of the decisions of the Supreme Court in AJAIKAIYE v. OKANDEJI and NSIRIM v. NSIRIM the cases of FAWEHINMI v. AKILU and UGO v. OKAFOR could only have been specially decided by the Court of Appeal on their peculiar facts and circumstances as to render the Supreme Court decisions necessarily inapplicable. In view of the failure of the appellant to call oral evidence from any of the persons identified in paragraph 10 of the amended statement of claim, I am of the firm view that there was no publication of the alleged defamatory words contained in Exhibit E. I therefore uphold and affirm the finding of the lower Court that there was no publication of libelous material.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It must be noted and emphasized that pleadings do not constitute evidence and a party must lead evidence oral or documentary in support of facts stated in his pleading. Averments in pleadings are mere paper tigers and are not evidence. It is therefore wrong for any Court to treat an averment in a pleading without evidence as evidence of matters averred therein. – Gumel, JCA. Omo-Agege v. Oghojafor (2010)
It is also part and parcel of the law of defamation that a person’s reputation is not in the good opinion he has of himself but in the estimation of other people, or a class of people. It is the protection of that estimation that is the real subject and aim of the law. ‘It is also not any estimation, be it emotional, biased or sectional etc that is protected, but that estimation which has passed the test of reasonableness both in its content and the person holding the estimation. Therefore, the determination of what constitutes publication is solely the decision of the Court having regards to the pleadings and the evidence adduced in support of same. – Gumel, JCA. Omo-Agege v. Oghojafor (2010)