A Lagos High Court has awarded N10 million damages against Paradigm Communications Limited, Publishers of National Daily Newspapers, for a libelous publication against a former Local Government Chairman in Lagos State, Hon. Afeez Ipesa-Balogun.
Ipesa-Balogun had approached the Lagos High Court in December 2010 to protest the publication by the National Daily Weekend of November 27-28, 2010 with the headline: Incredible! Chairman Milks LG Dry, How He Blows Billions on Private Assets, Houses…in Nigeria, US, Allegation is Self-Deceiving-Council Boss, EFCC Probe Imminent.
Ipesa-Balogun sued the publishers of the newspaper, Paradigm Communications Limited and Mr. Sylvester Ebhodaghe, its Executive Editor/Chief Executive Officer, complaining that the publication was false and libelous and had defamed him in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public.
Justice Lateef Abisola Okunnu of Court 26, Ikeja Judicial Division, while passing his judgement noted that he only recognised the first defendant, Paradigm Communications Limited, as the only one in the matter before him as the second defendant, Sylvester Ebodaghe, was never personally served with the originating court processes. He also stated that throughout the trial the defendant did not file any defence to oppose the case made against it.
According to the judge, until the law firm of Festus Keyamo Chambers engaged by it eventually withdrew appearance with the leave of the court, the counsel, acting on its behalf kept asking for more time to file its defence but never did.
He therefore held that “there had indeed been a false, libelous publication made by the first defendant to defame the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public”, noting that the defendant had decided by itself not to participate in the proceedings before the court by not joining issues with the claimant to contest the assertion that it deliberately and maliciously impugned his good standing, credit and reputation without any basis for it or challenge and contradict the evidence of the claimant and his witnesses.
The judge consequently ordered that Paradigm Communications Limited pays N10 million as damages to the former council Chairman for the wrong done to him by the publication, a perpetual order of injunction to restrain it from further publishing the offending article and a further N250, 000.00 award against it to Ipesa-Balogun to defray the cost of legal services incurred by him to successfully prosecute the case.