Judge Peter Kekemeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyanya, Abuja, dismissed the 502 million naira libel action filed by a board member of the Nigerian Taekwondo Federation ( NTF), Chika Chukwumerije v Adeyemi Enilari Adeyemi and his organization, Fondation Delateur.
The plaintiff had filed a complaint on December 22, 2015 against the defendants, claiming that they (defendants) posted on Nigeria’s Taekwondo Black Belt College Facebook page a letter dated Monday, October 5, 2015, allegedly addressed to the “President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation ”regarding the applicant with the caption“ Petition: Abuse and Assault Against Taekwondo Athletes ”.
He claimed that the alleged publication, which accused him of physically assaulting athletes, especially women, at the Taekwondo athlete’s camp in Abuja attracted hatred, ridicule and contempt for his personality.
He said the allegation was false and therefore sought 500 million naira in general damages and 2 million naira in litigation costs, in addition to an unqualified apology in two national dailies.
The first defendant filed a counterclaim, asking the court to order the plaintiff to pay them 1 billion naira for the alleged emotional trauma and injury caused by his improper conduct.
By rendering judgment on the case via Zoom on May 31, Judge Kekemeke, the justification defense, which the first defendant raised in the case, means that the alleged defamatory statement is true.
“The law is that when such a defense is raised, the onus is on the defendant to prove the truth of the incriminated statements. The defendant must prove that the defamatory charge is true by justifying the precise charge in question.
“It is not necessary to prove the veracity of every word of libel. If the defendant proves that the main accusation or the gist of the defamation is true, he does not need to justify the statements, which do not add to the sting of the accusation. See Dumbo vs. Idugboe (1983) 1 SC NLR 29.
“The gist of the accusation is that the applicant attacked athletes who were at the camp at the Febson hotel, in preparation for the African Games in Congo Brazzaville; that they were psychologically and mentally traumatized. A justification for the veracity of the substantive imputation by the defendant is sufficient although it does not extend to every epithet or term of general abuse that may be found in the description or statement of the imputation.
“In the present case, I am of the opinion that the defendants have justified the precise imputation of which they are complaining and I stand by it. The defendants have proven that the gist of the libel is true. In the circumstances, the action collapses and it is therefore dismissed, ”he concluded and also dismissed the defendant’s counterclaim.