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Court dismisses libel suit against The Guardian, Punch, Vintage Press

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A Kogi High Court sitting in Idah has dismissed a libel suit filed against the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), The Guardian, Punch and the Vintage Press for lack of merit.

Justice Fola Ajayi gave the ruling in the case filed by the suspended Kogi State Chairman of APGA, Ocholi Ameh, alleging defamatory imputations against him in the publication of certain statements.

The judge held that it was clear from the findings that Ameh’s claims could not be substantiated as the allegations of diversion of funds and anti-party activities upon which the publications were based had been proven to be true.The defendants, Mr. Ben Nweke, APGA, The Guardian, Punch and the Vintage Press Ltd, were alleged to have committed the offence in November 2015.

Ameh had averred that while preparing for the 2015 governorship election, the 1st defendant (Nweke), a card-carrying member of APGA, and the other defendants had connived and made libelous publications against him.The publications, according to him, alleged that he was suspended from APGA for anti-party activities, diversion of funds, absenteeism and other acts inimical to the survival of the party.

Ameh claimed that the publications portrayed him as a fraudulent, reckless and an irresponsible person, adding that all the allegations made against him in the publication were false.The claimant stated that a request by his solicitors for a retraction of the publications and an apology from the defendants was not heeded.

In the judgment, Justice Ajayi held that the claimant had stated under cross examination that on October 26, 2015, the party gave him N1million to organize the kick-off of campaign for its gubernatorial candidate. He said Ameh admitted that the campaign did not hold and neither was the money refunded just as no explanation was given on how the money was appropriated, giving room for his suspension on November 11 in line with the party’s constitution.

“I find without hesitation that the claimant has not proven that any offensive publication was made by the 1st and 2nd defendants against him to other person (s) in circumstances as to constitute libel.”It cannot be over emphasized that the isolated evidence of the claimant that the publication tarnished his good image and caused him to lose the respect and admiration of others is simply insufficient in law.”

The judge declared that in view of the clear findings, the defamatory imputations of diversions of funds and sundry anti-party activities alleged were true.”The principle of law is settled by a long line of decided cases that if the defendant proves that the main charge or gist of the libel is true, the claim of libel fails.

“The claimant needs not justify the statement or comments which do not add to the sting of the charge. I find no merit in the claim and it is dismissed,” Justice Ajayi ruled.


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