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The Nation, Activist, Loses Bid To Annul N750 Million Libel Judgment

By Segun Ilori
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The bid by the Nation Newspapers to overturn the judgement of an Ado Ekiti High Court which awarded N750 million against it and an Activist Morakinyo Ogele 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 and should be complied with.

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, Presiding Judge, Hon Justice A.L Ogunmoye held that the Applicants has not placed 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 MP Ogele who was the 3rd defendant in the suit entered unconditional 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for the Applicants,there was no record that the processes which he filed on behalf of the applicants were ever withdrawn.The processes were still active in the case file as at the time judgement was delivered on 17 / 5/13.It would not be convenient for me to say that the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 delivered''

While dismissing their motions, the judge ruled that the judgement was not a default judgement but valid and well considered judgment 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 are also to publish an apology in 3 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,Mr Justice Adewale.K Fowe, held that the Claimant,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.

Commending the judge for reinforcing his client's earlier victory, Ilori's attorney, Mr Obafemi Adewale said his client would move to enforce the judgement despite the antics of the judgement debtor to frustrate the valid judgement of the court.