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Chime loses N1.5bn libel suit against The Guardian

By The Citizen
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The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal has upheld the dismissal of a N1.5bn libel suit filed by the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, against The Guardian Newspaper and Chief Okechukwu Ezea, his opponent in the 2007 governorship election.

The appellate court, in a judgement delivered by Justice Rita Pemu on Friday, said Justice Kazeem Alogba of the Lagos State High Court was right in dismissing Chime's libel suit for lack of merit.

The governor had filed the suit claiming N1.5bn damages from Ezea and The Guardian Newspapers Limited.

Chime had alleged that Ezea defamed him through a publication on page seven of The Guardian Newspaper of August 14, 2007.

According to Chime, Ezea published in the newspaper that he had plotted to kill him.

Ruling on the suit, Justice Alogba of the lower court, had however, dismissed the suit for lack of merit and awarded a cost of N100, 000 against Chime.

Dissatisfied with the judgement, the governor, through his counsel, Dr. Gbolahan Elias, had approached the appellate court seeking to upturn the judgement.

On Friday however, Justice Pemu held that Chime's suit could not be sustained.

He said the governor ought to have called the witnesses that attended the press conference where the defamatory statements were allegedly uttered.

The judge aligned with the argument of first respondent's counsel, Dr. Joseph Nwobike, that the appellant failed to prove that the first respondent even uttered the defamatory statements.

Justice pemu further noted that the appellant had not attached any weight to a similar publication in the Vanguard Newspaper, whereas he had sued The Guardian.

Consequently, the court awarded a cost of N30, 000 against the appellant.

The governor had in his appeal submitted that the lower court erred in law when it held that the appellant failed to prove that Ezea uttered the defamatory statements complained of.

He further submitted that the lower court erred when it held that the words published in The Guardian newspaper were incapable of defaming him.

Chime had in his statement of claim, accused Ezea of addressing a press conference in August 2007, attended by numerous representatives of the press in Abuja, where he allegedly accused him of plots to kill him.

The governor averred that his personal reputation had been seriously tarnished, adding that he had suffered considerable distress and embarrassment from such libelous assertion.