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IMPUTATION OF CORRUPTION ON A MAN IN OFFICE IS DEFAMATORY

Dictum

It is settled law that it is defamatory to impute to a man in any office, whether public or private, any corrupt, dishonest or fraudulent conduct or other misconduct or inefficiency in it or unfitness or want of ability to discharge his duties. See the case of CITIBANK NIGERIA LIMITED v. IKEDIASHIO (2014) 7 CLRN (CA).

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

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THE DEFENCE OF QUALIFIED PRIVILEGE

The defence of qualified privilege is a defence to an untrue publication. It can only be claimed however when the occasion of the publication is shown to be privileged. An occasion is privileged when the person who makes the documentation has a moral duty to make to the person to whom he does make it and the person who receives it has an interest in hearing it. Both these conditions must exist in order for the occasion may be privileged. See the case of MAINSTREET BANK LIMITED & ANOR v. DOMINIC BINNA (2016) LPELR-48351 (SC).PUNCH (NIG) LTD V OVBEREDJO (2018)LPELR-44540(CA) The defence of qualified privilege will not avail a defendant if there is evidence of actual or express malice. If the action of the defendant is actuated by malice. See the cases of UKO v. MBABA (2001) 4 NWLR (PT 704) 460 CA; CHIEF S. B. BAKARE & ANOR v. ALHAJI ADO IBRAHIM (1973) 6 SC 147 @ 152-153.

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

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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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EFFECTS OF DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS TO BE PROVED

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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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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JUSTIFICATION IS A DEFENCE TO DEFAMATION

Defamation however, is not without a defence. Justification is a complete and a veritable defence to an action for libel or slander, that the defamatory imputation is true. Simply put, 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, and 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. See Iloabachie v. Iloabachie (Supra) at 517 paras A-D; Amorc v. Awoniyi (1991) 3 NWLR (PT. 178), 245.

— 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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