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EFFECTS OF DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS TO BE PROVED

Dictum

Similarly, the tort of defamation has to do with injury to the reputation of a person resulting from words written or spoken by others against him. A defamatory statement has the following effects: (a) To lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right thinking members of the society generally; or (b) To expose him to hatred; contempt or ridicule; or (c) To cause other persons to shun or avoid him; or (d) To discredit him in his office, trade or profession; or (e) To injure his financial credit. Thus, to succeed in an action for libel, the plaintiff, must establish the aforementioned as the effects of the defamatory publication of him. See Olaniyi v. Elero (Supra) at 983 Paras A-C. … Generally, the onus is on the plaintiff to show that the published words complained of are defamatory or that they convey a defamatory imputation. However, where the words complained of are defamatory in their natural and ordinary meaning, the plaintiff has no legal duty to lead any evidence to show additional defamatory meaning understood by persons possessing some particular facts.

— S.D. West, JCA. Fayose v ICN (2012) – CA/AE/58/2010

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RELYING ON THE PLEA OF DEFENCE OF JUSTIFICATION

It is trite that for a defendant to rely on a plea of Justification, the words spoken or written must be true. The defence of justification is made out the moment a defendant establishes that the alleged libelous words are true. All the defendant has to do, is to justify the substance of the publication by showing that the main charge or gist of the libel is true. See the case of RAFIU AJIBOLA OKIKIOLA OGBARA v. KAZEEM OLORUNIMBE OGBARA (2022) LPELR-59307(CA). A plea of justification means that the libel (defamatory words) is true, not only in its allegation of facts but also in any comment made there on. The defendant who pleads justification is required to deliver full particulars of the facts and matters upon nich he relies in support of such a plea inits statement of defence and the evidence at the trial in support of this plea of justification. See the case of FIRST BANK OF NIGERIA V. GHANNY INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ANOR (2022) LPELR-58083 (CA). The defendant must prove that the statement made is true in substance and fact, irrespective of whether the statement was made out of malice or as fair comment. The duty of proving the truth of the statement is on the defendant, and the plea of justification must be broad enough to cover every injurious imputation contained in the libel.A summary is that he must justify his action. Strict proof is required not a mere ipsi dixitin pleadings.

— A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA. Gbemre v Gbemre (2023) – CA/AS/114/2020

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PUBLICATION IS A REQUIREMENT TO SUCCEED IN DEFAMATION

It is the settled position of the law that defamatory words are actionable once it is libelous and has been published to a 3rd party. Publication is one of the basic ingredients of defamation. For a Claimant/plaintiff to succeed in libel there must be proof by evidence of publication to a third party and the reaction of the 3rd party to such publication. See the cases SKETCH PUBLICATIONS LTD v. AJAGBOMKEFERI (SUPRA), NSIRIM v. NSIRIM (SUPRA).

— A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA. Gbemre v Gbemre (2023) – CA/AS/114/2020

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TRUTH OF A DEFAMATORY STATEMENT IS JUSTIFICATION

One of the defences available to a defendant in an action for libel is that of justification. It is therefore a complete defence to an action for libel or slander that the defamatory imputation is true. The truth of the imputation is an answer to the action because the law presumes that the plaintiff has no right to a character free from that imputation if he has no right to it. He cannot in justice recover damages for the loss of it. He is not entitled to benefit from the loss of a reputation he is not entitled to and as such the allegation in a defence that the words complained are true is therefore called a plea of justification. A defence of justification is therefore a complete bar to any relief sought by a party who complains of defamation. It is appropriately described in the Latin maxim: damnum absque injuria.” Until it is clearly established that an alleged libel is untrue, it will not be clear that any right at all has been infringed: See Registered Trustees of Amore v. Awoniyi (1991) 3 NWLR (Pt. 178) 245 at 257.

— Akintan, JSC. Iloabachie v Iloabachie (2005) – SC.137/2000

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WHAT NEED BE PROVED TO SUCCEED IN DEFAMATION

It is trite that for a claimant to succeed in an action for defamation, he needs to prove the following; (a) That the words are defamatory which exposes him to hatred, ridicule, contempt in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and has the tendency to injure his reputation, profession or trade. That the false words referred to him (the Plaintiff) and are to discredit him. (b) (c) That the words were published (to at least one person other than the plaintiff). It is the position of the law in the case of STEPHEN EMMANUEL v. CHRISTIANA FELIX & ORS (2022) LPELR-57960 (CA) that; “It is indeed the correct position of law that at least one witness must be called who actually perceived the defamatory words by reading the written words or by hearing in its oral form.” See also the case of OKECHUKWU v. UBA PLC & ANOR (2017) LPELR-43100 (CA).

— A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA. Gbemre v Gbemre (2023) – CA/AS/114/2020

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DEFAMATION VIS-A-VIS INJURIOUS FALSEHOODS

Defamation has been judicially, defined to embrace imputations which tend to lower a person’s dignity in the estimation of the right thinking members of the society and expose him, the person so disparaged, to hatred opprobrium odium, contempt or ridicule, see Oruwari v. Osler (2013) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1348) 535. The action is specifically anchored on injurious/malicious falsehood which signifies. “A false and injurious statement that discredits or detracts from the reputation of another’s character, property, product or business” It denotes “The common-law tort of belittling someone’s business, goods or services with remarks that are false or misleading: but not necessarily defamatory” see – Bryan A- Garner et al (eds.) Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th edition (West Publishing Co., US.A., 2014) pages 570 and 1721 respectfully. It bears the other names: – trade libel, slander of goods/title. It is an economic tort that attacks proprietary interest of citizens.

— O.F. Ogbuinya JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc v. Longterm Global Cap. Ltd. & Ors. (September 20 2021, ca/l/1093/2017)

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ACTUAL DEFAMATORY WORDS MUST BE STATED IN THE PLEADINGS

More so, it is of necessity in an action for defamation either libel or slander, that the actual words complained of and not merely their substance must be set out verbatim in the statement of claim. It is on the perusal of the actual words complained of as pleaded that the court will determine whether or not the words convey defamatory meaning. Failure to plead such actual words is fatal to the plaintiff’s case. See. Olaifa v. Aina (1993) 4 NWLR (Pt286) 192; Okafor v. Ikeanyi (1979) 1 NWLR (Pt. 100) 678; Olaniyi v. Elero (2008) All FWLR (Pt.411) 975 at 986 Paras C-E.

— S.D. West, JCA. Fayose v ICN (2012) – CA/AE/58/2010

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