11th July, 2012
An Abuja High Court on Wednesday ordered an Ibadan-based publisher of The Extra Newspapers, to pay the former governor of Abia, Chief Orji Kalu, N10 million damages.
Delivering judgment in the suit, the Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Lawal Gummi, held that the headline was libellous.
“The libellous words in their ordinary meaning translates to that he (Kalu) was a kidnapper who does not merit the respect he had earned as a former governor, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PPA and a former presidential candidate.
“The publication was false, mischievous and malicious to the character of Kalu,’’ Gummi said.
Gummi further held that the newspaper carried the information about Kalu with intent to hurt and tarnish his reputation.
The judge said that the newspaper acted in a “reckless manner” and did nothing to balance its story.
He expressed disgust at the attitude of the newspaper and those joined in the suit, for not appearing in court to defend themselves.
“It was clear from the onset that the defendants had no interest in entering appearance in the matter since the suit came up on Jan. 2, 2011.
“The court needs no further proof in determining this matter. From all the exhibits and statement of claims, I deliver my judgment in favour of the plaintiff.’’
He noted that the damage to be awarded was at the discretion of the court, especially with the position of the plaintiff in the community.
Gummi said, therefore, that as a reputable politician and a one-time governor, the damages for Kalu’s case would be higher.
He ordered the newspaper to “immediately” write a letter of apology to Kalu and issue a
retraction of the story in the same paper.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kalu filed a libel suit against the newspaper claiming N5 billion as damages for the publication the newspaper carried on its front page on Oct. 10, 2010.
Kalu in the suit complained that the headline “Orji Uzor Kalu is a kidnapping Kingpin” on the front page of the newspaper was defamatory.
He joined the editor, Mr Cyril Sina and the reporter, Mr Sunday Idibiaso, as codefendants in the suit.
The former governor claimed that on Oct. 10 2010, the newspapers maliciously wrote a story under the caption: “Orji Uzor Kalu, a Kidnapping Kingpin’’, which it credited as comments by Gov. Theodore Orji.
Kalu urged the court to order a retraction of the publication and an apology in a form acceptable to him in all the national newspapers to be stipulated by the court.
He further asked the court for a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, all their servants and privies of the newspaper from further publication of any other defamatory statements about him.