Posted by News Express | 30 June 2017 | 3,012 times
President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, on Thursday, expressed divergent opinions on the judgment of an Ilorin High Court that the publisher of the online news platform should pay him (Saraki) the sum of N4 billion ($11.1 million) as damages over a series of libelous stories published against him by the medium in 2015.
While Saraki commended the judgment, Sowore dismissed it as a kangaroo verdict.
Saraki, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, stated that the judgement was a testament that the moral arc of the universe will always bend towards justice.
“One thing is clear by the judgement, there are systems in place in our nation for all citizens to seek redress if they have been unfairly treated in any way,” the statement read, “This judgement is a fulfillment of our promise that we will explore all legal means to seek redress for all the fabrications and mudslinging that Sahara Reporters has thrown at us over the years.
“This judgement demonstrates that our justice system can and will continue to protect the fundamental human rights of all citizens from being infringed by anyone. Moving forward, the purveyors of mischievous stories can learn from this precedent that has been set. The ruling by Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, will serve as a deterrent to all those who profit by propagating ‘Fake News’ to blackmail innocent citizens or curry undue favours.
“This judgement is definitely not a victory for the Senate President alone. It is a victory for all the victims of the falsehood which Sahara Reporters daily dole out to rubbish the reputation of innocent Nigerians, many of whom either out of fear, lack of the patience to consistently pursue a court case for years or lack of belief in the ability of the system to give them justice decided to live with the injury to their reputation.
“The judgement is another vindication for our country and her solid enthronement of the rule of law as against the rule of men.
“Dr Saraki believes this judgement would provide inspiration and encouragement for all those whose reputations have been unduly and unnecessarily injured by Sahara Reporters and its ilk who are purveyors of false news to seek redress through the courts.
“He sees the verdict of the High Court against Sahara Reporters as a positive development with the potential to reassure individuals and firms who would in future come under undeserved attack by publications which spread falsehood aimed at maliciously casting them in bad light.
“The judgement provides a redeeming point for the noble profession of journalism which has as its sacred, cardinal principle the pursuit of facts at all times and in all situations.
“The journalists and news media who have devoted themselves to the pursuit of truth but appear to be overwhelmed by those who trade in falsehood and sensationalism now have a reason to be proud that they are on the right path. That is another meaning Dr. Saraki gives to this judgement.
“However, the Senate President will like to assure all and sundry that he will not spare any legal efforts and expenses, both in Nigeria and abroad, necessary to recover every kobo of the cost awarded in his favour from the defendant.
“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.”
However, Sowore in his reaction said that “robbers have stolen the gavel of lady justice, and that must also be recovered.”
He said: “Folks: I was alerted to a jankara judgment from an Ilorin High Court judge today, and your guess is as good as mine.
“Robbers have stolen the gavel of lady justice, and that must also be recovered!
Please do not fret!
“Saraki started … since 1990 at Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria according to the police charge sheet HERE.
“The depositors/ customers of SGBN were robbed of their life savings and later the people of Kwara state were robbed blind, lately, the people of Nigeria were robbed of their commonwealth and human dignity.
“Saraki will pay for all these sooner than later.”
The Senate President had, through his lawyer, Babatunde Olomu, had asked for the intervention of the court following the publication of series of libellous stories against him by Sahara Reporters.
Both Sowore and Sahara Reporters were joined as defendants in the suit marked as KWS/23/2017. Olomu told newsmen that the defendants had refused to defend the case despite the service of the summons on them. He said the first series of service involved an arrangement between the office of the Nigerian ministry of Justice and their counterpart in New York, the operational base of the medium.
When that failed, the counsel said the claimant thereafter seized the opportunities of a visit to Nigeria by Sowore to serve him at his two properties in Ikeja area of Lagos state. Delivering the judgment, Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye of the court agreed with Olomou and granted all the reliefs sought by the claimant in the case.
The reliefs granted are as follows: “the sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libellous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of October 5, 2015 under the caption “Nigeria at 55: Bukola Saraki and 83 Inmates Are Running the Asylum”
“The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libellous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of September 20, 2015 under the caption: “A polished Name for political immorality.
Time for Saraki to Go!” “The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libellous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of November 09, 2015 under the caption: “Bukola Saraki On a shopping Spree to Buy Judges…Stop Being a Clown And A Coward Man Up, face The Music”
“The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libellous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of December 1, 2015 under the caption: “Arms Contract Scandal: Senator Saraki Blackmailed CBN Officials To Pay N250 Million Hush Funds”.
“An order for injunction restraining the defendants from further writing, printing or causing to be written, printed or circulated or otherwise published of the claimant the said, or similar libel.
“An order directing the defendants to remove the offending publications from its website on the internet within three days from the date of judgment and an order directing the defendants to publish an apology to the claimant on its online newspaper and in three other daily newspapers.” he said.
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