Kaduna State High Court ordered newspaper to pay governor Nasir El-Rufai N10 million in damages and issue a public apology to him for a story that the governor declared an asset worth N90 billion.
The court issued the order on Monday in a judgment handed down by Justice ML Muhammed in a case brought by Mr. El-Rufai against Today’s Publishing Company Limited.
The court said the apology should be published in the national dailies and also prevented the defendants from continuing to defame the governor further.
The media group in a July 2, 2015 post claimed that Mr. El-Rufai reported owning 90 billion naira, including 40 mansions, in his asset declaration forms to the Code of Conduct Office.
Mr El-Rufai called the story false and malicious and subsequently sued the newspaper.
In the judgment, the court found that Mr. El-Rufai had demonstrated, through his pleadings and evidence, that he never declared assets worth 90 billion naira and 40 homes.
The content of the judgment is reproduced below.
“The court reiterated the ingredients that a plaintiff must prove to be successful in a libel action namely; Publication of the incriminated remarks; that the words refer to the applicant; that the remarks are defamatory towards the plaintiff; that the remarks have been published to third parties; that the words are false; and that there are no justifiable legal grounds for such publication.
“By juxtaposing said ingredients with the present case, the court held that by exhibits 1 and 2 (the printed and electronic versions of said publication), the plaintiff had shown that indeed the incriminated material had been published by the defendants at some thirds.
“The court also ruled that by Exhibit 11 (Claimant’s Asset Declaration Form submitted to the CWB), the plaintiff had satisfactorily shown that he had not declared assets worth $ 90 billion. of naira and 40 mansions, implying that the words were false and defamatory of the plaintiff.
“The court also noted that during the trial, the DW1 admitted that while the publication was made on July 2, 2015, they approached the CCB and the plaintiff’s media aide for details. on said statement on July 3, 2015, being the next day. So, implicitly, they released what they wanted before going to look for the details of said statement.
“The court also noted that DW1 concluded his testimony by admitting that there was no basis for said publication.
“On the defendants’ defense, the court ruled that the defendants should have shown the court from Exhibit 11 – Claimant’s Assets Declaration Form that indeed the plaintiff declared N90 billion in assets and $ 40 billion. mansions and that he did not.
“The only plausible conclusion would be that the publication was clearly defamatory of the complainant. The court also referred to the testimony of DW1 which was filled with confession and held that the defendants had failed to prove the defenses of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.
“On the claimant’s asset declaration forms, which he previously submitted to the CWB before and after serving as CEO, BPE and CTF Minister – Exhibits DW1, DW2 and DW3, the court ruled that ‘they were not relevant to the present case. as the case bothered him about the claimant’s 2015 statement before he took office as governor of Kaduna state.
“Overall, the court resolved all the issues to be decided in favor of the plaintiff and rendered judgment jointly and severally against the defendants and in favor of the plaintiff as follows:
1. N10,000,000.00 as general damages…
2. An apology to receive the same publicity as the defamatory material.
3. A perpetual injunction order restricting the Defendants to further defame the plaintiff.
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