Court dismisses Chukwumerije’s libel suit against group
Justice Peter Kekemeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyanya, Abuja, has dismissed the N502million libel suit filed by a board member of the Nigerian Taekwondo Federation (NTF), Chika Chukwumerije against Adeyemi Enilari Adeyemi and his organisation, Delateur Foundation.
The claimant had filed the suit in December 22, 2015 against the defendants, claiming that they (defendants) published on Nigeria Taekwondo Black Belt College Facebook page, a letter dated Monday October 5, 2015 purportedly addressed to “President, Nigeria Taekwondo Federation” concerning the claimant with the caption “Petition: Abuse and Assault of Taekwondo Athletes”.
He claimed that the alleged publication, which accused him of physically assaulting athletes, especially females, during the camping of Taekwondo athletes in Abuja attracted hate, ridicule and contempt to his personality.
He stated that the allegation was false and therefore prayed for N500 million general damages and N2 million cost of litigation, in addition to an unreserved apology in two national dailies.
The first defendant filed a counter claim, praying the court to order the claimant to pay them N1billion for alleged emotional trauma and injury occasioned by his reprehensible conduct.
Delivering judgment on the matter via Zoom, May 31, Justice Kekemeke the defence of justification, which the first defendant put up in the case, means that the alleged defamatory statement is true.
“The law is that when such a defence is raised, the burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of the words complained of. The defendant must prove that the defamatory imputation is true by justifying the precise imputation complained of.
“It is not necessary to prove the truth of every word in the libel. If the defendant prove that the main charge or gist of the libel is true, he needs not justify the statements, which do not add to the sting of the charge. See Dumbo Vs. Idugboe (1983) 1 SC NLR 29.
“The gist of the charge is that the claimant assaulted athletes who were in camp at Febson Hotel, preparatory to the All African Games in Congo Brazzaville; that they were psychologically and mentally traumatised. A justification of the truth of the substantial imputation by the defendant is sufficient though it does not extend to every epithet or term of general abuse that may be found in the description or statement of the imputation.
“In the instant case, it is my view that the defendants have justified the precise imputation complained of and I so hold. The defendants have proved that the gist of the libel is true. In the circumstance, the suit crumbles and it is accordingly dismissed,” he held and also dismissed the counter claim of the defendant.
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