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THE NATION NEWSPAPER, EKITI ACTIVIST, LOSE BID TO ANNUL N750 MILLION LIBEL JUDGEMENT

By Lere Olayinka
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The bid by The Nation Newspapers and an Akure based activist,
Morakinyo Ogele to overturn the judgement of an Ado Ekiti High Court
which awarded N750 million against them in favour of a journalist and
Lawyer, Mr Segun Ilori hit the rocks yesterday, as another High court
Judge ruled that the libel judgement was valid.

Ruling on two applications by Ogele, The Nation and Victor Ifijeh, the
judgment debtors/Applicants, that the judgement of the court should be
annulled based on denial of fair hearing and lack of jurisdiction by
the High court which earlier gave the judgment, Justice A. L Ogunmoye
held that the Applicants did not place before the court any cogent
facts to support their case.

He said the records before him and the affidavits deposed by the
Claimant showed that the court gave the applicants fair hearing and
they were represented by lawyers who also filed processes in the case.

According to the judge:"it was not in doubt that Mr M. P. Ogele who
was the 3rd defendant in the suit entered conditional appearance for
all the defendants on 19/5/11. He later proceeded to file a statement
of defence which he further amended on 14/6/11. Though Mr M.P Ogele
later withdrew his appearance for the Applicants, there was no record
that the processes which he filed on behalf of the applicants were
ever withdrawn.

"The processes were still active in the case file as at the time
judgement was delivered on 17 / 5/13.

"It would not be convenient for me to say that the judgement of Fowe J
delivered on 17/5/13 was a default judgement...It is also instructive
to note that the motion on notice HAD/267/12 that was said not to have
been heard was actually determined in that it was struck out before
judgement was deliveredm''

While dismissing their motions, the judge ruled that the judgement was
not a default judgement, adding that the issues canvassed by the
debtors could only be considered at the Appeal court.

It would be recalled that an Ado Ekiti High Court had in May last
year awarded the sum of N750 million damages against The Nation
newspapers and an Akure based activist, Morakinyo Ogele for libel and
defamation published against Mr Segun Ilori, a lawyer,journalist and
former Chief of staff to Ekiti Governor.

The defendants were also ordered to publish an apology in three
national newspapers for the defamatory publication in The Nation of
Wednesday 12 May2010 headlined : "Lawyer petitions NJC over bribery
allegation Against Election Tribunal Judges".

In the judgement delivered on Friday 17 May 2013, Justice Adewale .K
Fowe, held that Ilori had proved his case having led evidence
unchallenged by defendants. He said claimant's evidence, those of his
witnesses and the exhibits submitted showed that the publication was
false,malicious, defamatory and injured his reputation.