A Kaduna State High Court has ordered Today Publishing Company, publishers of The Union newspaper, to tender an apology and pay N10million for defaming Governor Nasir el-Rufai.
Governor El-Rufai had approached the court in 2015 after The Union published about his assets declaration, in suit number KAD/KDH/285/15, which had Today’s Publishing Company Ltd as defendant. The governor had said the story was false.
Justice M.L. Muhammed of the Kaduna State High Court who delivered judgment, ordered the defendants to pay el-Rufai the sum of N10million as general damages and tender an apology which must be published in national dailies.
The court also perpetually restrained the defendants from further defaming Governor el-Rufai.
It will be recalled that the case followed a front-page story published in The Union on 2nd July 2015, which f claimed that the governor had declared assets worth N90bn and 40 mansions.
El-Rufai’s lawyer, A.U. Mustapha, SAN praised the judgment “as a well-considered judgment which was replete with industry and erudition”.
On his part, the governor welcomed the judgment “as a clear statement that the freedom to publish is not a license to defame people or clothe rumour-mongering and malice as journalism”.
He said that “he approached the court and personally testified in the case as a demonstration of his belief in the rule of law, a stance he has taken in securing apologies from other newspapers for libel and which informs his continued pursuit of other instances of defamation in the courts”.
The court held that the plaintiff had clinically demonstrated through his pleadings and evidence led in support that he never declared assets worth N90bn and 40 mansions.
The court reiterated the ingredients that the plaintiff had proven the ingredients of defamation to wit: “publication of the offending words; that the words refer to the plaintiff; that the words are defamatory of the plaintiff; that the words were published to third parties; that the words are false; and that there are no justifiable legal grounds for the said publication.