From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja
Kogi High Court sitting in Idah on Wednesday dismissed a libel suit against the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), The Guardian, Punch newspapers and Vintage Press for lacking in merit.
Justice Fola Ajayi said in his judgment on the suit filed by suspended Kogi chairman of APGA, Prince Ocholi Ameh alleging defamatory imputations against him arising from publication of certain statements failed as it lacked merit.
Ajayi said it was clear that from the findings that the claims could not be substantiated as the alleged diversion of fund and anti-party activities upon which the publications were based had been proved to be right.
The defendants, Mr Ben Nweke, APGA, Guardian Newspapers Ltd, Vintage Press Ltd and Punch Newspapers were alleged to have committed the offence sometimes in November, 2015.
Ameh had averred that while preparing for the 2015 gubernatorial election, the 1stdefendant (Nweke), a card carrying member of the party and the other defendants had connived and made a libelous publications against him.
The publications, according to him, had alleged that he was suspended from the party for anti-party activities, diversion of funds, absenteeism and other acts inimical to the survival of the party.
According to him, the publication therefore portrayed him as “a fraudulent, reckless and an irresponsible person” adding that all the allegations made against him in the publication were totally false.
The claimant stated that request by his solicitors for a retraction of the publication and an apology from the defendants was not heeded.
In the judgment, Ajayi held that the claimant had stated under cross examination that on October 26, 2015, the party gave him the sum of N1 million to organize the flag-off of campaign for the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
He said that the claimant admitted that the campaign did not hold and neither was the money refunded just as no explanation was given to show how the money was appropriated giving room for his suspension on November 11, in line with the party’s constitution.
“I find without hesitation that the claimant has not proved that any offensive publication was made by the 1st and 2nd defendants against him to other person(s) in circumstances as to constitute libel.
“It cannot be over emphasized that the isolated evidence of the claimant that the publication tarnished his good image and caused him to lose the respect and admiration of others is simply insufficient in law.
The jurist held that in view of the clear findings, the defamatory imputations of diversions of fund and sundry anti-party activities alleged, were true.
“The principle of law is settled by a long line of decided cases that if the defendant proves that the main charge or gist of the libel is true, the claim of libel fails.
“The claimant need not justify the statement or comments which do not add to the sting of the charge. Accordingly, I find no merit in the claim and it is dismissed”, he said.