By Adenike Lucas
The President of the Nigerian Senate has won $11.1 Million (N4 billion) High Court defamation damages from the publisher of an online news platform over a series of false stories published against him by the medium in 2015.
Babatunde Olomu, representing Senator Bukola Saraki, approached the court following the publication the offensive story in a suit marked KWS/23/2017/.
Sahara Reporters, a US online website, which DENISAURUS News has given a detailed account of how it’s publisher was working in connivance with the rejected chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu.
The judge, Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, on Wednesday, ruled against the defendants who refused to defend the case despite the service of summons on them.
Justice Oyinloye has ordered “the sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damage for libellous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of November 09, 2015.
He also said: “The sum of N 1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libellous word falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of December 1, 2015.”
Bamikole Omisore, SA New Media to Senator Bukola Saraki hopes “the ruling against @SaharaReporters @YeleSowore will be a wake up call for everyone he has defamed or blackmailed to sue him.”
The judge, who ordered that the offending publications be removed within three days, has issued an injunction restraining the defendants from further writing, printing or causing to be written, printed or circulated or otherwise published of the claimant.
Supporters of Senator Saraki have welcomed the decision of Justice Oyinloye. Engineer Baba Idris, a Twitter user wrote: “God has vindicated” the former Governor of Kwara.
Another Twitteruser, AJ Kuku, said: “I love the way the fund is going to be managed.”
In a statement, Senator Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated that the judgement issued against Sahara Reporters for constantly publishing false, libellous and misleading stories that were aimed at defaming his person, was a testament that the moral arc of the universe will always bend towards justice.”
The statement said: “The restitution from this judgement will be channeled to set up a Foundation whose aim will be to support pure and unadulterated investigative journalism and assist the families of real journalists that die in the line of duty. The money will also be used to support genuine publications whose owners are struggling to pay salaries of workers or meet their ever rising running cost. Part of the money will also be channelled to help lawyers who have been providing pro bono services to litigants, particularly, on cases bothering on enforcement of fundamental human rights.
“It should be noted that the methodical and dogged manner in which Dr. Saraki pursued the case despite the ceaseless barrage of false allegations thrown at him by the Sahara Reporters should assure all Nigerians that he maintains a solid belief in free press, free speech and responsible journalism and that he will do everything legal to fight those who want to use journalism as a destructive, blackmail and oppressive instrument. This latter brand of journalism will not help our society and has no role to play in the emerging Nigeria.”