Activity, Pan-African Mission

Delta State High Court sitting in Effurun has awarded a sum of N30 million against Nigerian blogger, Linda Ikeji for a libelous post/ publication against the Neo-Black Movement (NBM) of Africa.

Source: Tlive Media

In a certified true copy of the judgement made available to newsmen, presiding judge,
Justice Roli Daibo-Harriman said the N30 million covered the cost of general damage.

Daibo-Harriman, in her judgement delivered on April 29, 2024 also awarded a sum of N300,000 being cost for litigation against the blogger.

Ikeji was also ordered to write a letter of apology to be published and circulated in her blog, Linda Ikeji blog as well as in a Daily National Newspaper within 14 days of the judgement.

The judgement further restrained Ikeji, her agent, privies and other persons howsoever described acting for or on her behalf from further publishing/posting other false and damaging publication against the NBM of Africa.

Recalled that NBM of Africa and three others had dragged Ikeji to court over libelous publication against them and demanded for a sum of N1 billion as damages.

The lawsuit number: EHC/210/2021 had the Registered Trustees of the NBM of Africa, Chief Ese Kakor, Chief Felix Kupa and Dr Mayor Onyebueke as Claimants while Ikeji was the sole defendant in the suit.

The Claimants through their counsel, Barr. Kelvin Agbroko
sought four reliefs from the court:

A declaration that the defendant in her Online blog publication of Nov. 7, 2019 posted and published and captioned, “photo of ‘black axe’ donating Iron shelter to traffic police in Osun”. “These viral photos showed members of the dreaded cult group NBM of Africa aka black axe donating Iron shelter to traffic police in Osun and they all looked happy amounting to libel”.

An order of the court awarding a sum of N1 billion only to the claimants being special and general damage against the defendant.

An order directing the defendant to write a letter of apology and retraction published and given some prominence and circulation in the defendant’s Online, Linda Ikeji blog and some Newspapers in Nigeria.

Finally, an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, her agents, privies and others from further publishing/posting any false and damaging publication against the Claimants.

The claimants had stated that NBM of Africa is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and it was a lawful NGO as well as humanitarian and charitable entity.

The claimants averred that as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s members donated an Iron shelter to traffic police in Osun for which the defendant made malicious and mischievous publication aimed at maligning and ridiculing their integrity before the general public.

The claimants added that the publication had caused damage to their reputation adding that despite their protest, the defendant failed to pull down the libelous publication.

According to the court judgement, the claimants witnesses alluded to the fact that the publication was capable of reducing and had reduced the claimants reputation in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public.

“The copy of the judgement read in parts, “despite service of writ on the defendant, and subsequent repeated service of hearing of notice on the defendant until the conclusion of trial, the defendant failed, refused and deliberately neglected to put up appearance nor even participated in the trial.

“Having been satisfied by the notices on the defendant, the trial on the suit commenced on April 25, 2023 with the claimants calling seven witnesses (CW1-CW7).

“The witnesses in their witness statements on oath which they adopted swore that they read the offending publication and that the publication has ridiculed the claimants. They also swore that the publication is still active Online.

“The above facts were uncontroverted by the defendant,”.

According to the copy, counsel to the Claimants contended that with the uncontroverted facts stated by the witnesses, the court ought grant the reliefs of his clients.

The judge, however, noted that despite the lack of defence, it was important to considered the words complained by the claimants to ascertain whether right-thinking members of the public could attribute the meaning ascribed to them by the claimants.

“It is trite that to sustain an action for libel, a claimant must plead and prove that (a) the publication was written, (b) the publication was false and (c) the publication was made to the defendant,” she said.

Daibo-Harriman cited the case of Access bank PLC V Ugwuh (2013) LPELR – 20735 (CA) and observed that:

“What will a reasonable man think of the Claimants after reading the said words which included words like cultists.

“It is not a dispute that the 1st claimants is a lawful NGO, a humanitarian and charitable organisation. A humanitarian who assist suffering individuals particularly victims of armed conflicts, farmines and natural disasters.

“I will pick a few words/phrases from the offending publication by definition, black axe, cultists and dreaded cult group.

“According to Oxford Dictionary, “dreaded” means causing fear or worry, Cult means a dangerous organization that manipulates and often harms its members.

“The above underline words in their ordinary meaning suggest that the 1st claimants operates a dangerous organization likely to cause harm, problem or destruction to the public,” she said.

Daibo-Harriman said that defamatory statement had the following intentions (a) to exposed the person to hatred, (b) to cause other persons to avoid him (c) to discredit the person in his office and (d) to injure his financial credit.

“Consequently, I can safely conclude that any reasonable man who read exhibit CL1 will conclude that the claimants run a dangerous organization with the aim of causing harm to the public.

“I found that the publication of the claimants as a dreaded cult group defamed and reduced the respect accorded them by members of the public.

“In this age of fast and easy access to information, such reckless act as that exhibited by the defendant should be discouraged.

“Despite the service of originating process on the defendant, the defendant had refused to file a statement of defence or call evidence in the suit.

“The law is trite that where a defendant fails to file a defence in a suit and does not defend a suit.

“Then, he is deemed to have admitted the cause of the claimant. See the case of Mata V Kano State Public Complaints & Anti Corruption Commission & Anor (2023) LPELR – 60503 (CA).

“In this circumstance, judgement is entered in favour of the Claimants against the defendant,” the judge concluded.

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