DEFAMATION: Circumstances the court will consider to determine whether liability has arisen in defamation
"... It has been submitted that from the wordings of exhibit K, just re-produced, the words were intended to expose the respondent to hatred and ridicule, and to lower his estimation in the estimation of right thinking members of the society, and therefore defamatory of the respondent. The lower Court concerning this issue, alluded to the contents of exhibit K, and the case law in Ayeni vs. Adesina (supra), NTA vs. Babatope (1996) 4 NWLR (pt. 440) 75 @ 88, and Enterprises Bank Ltd vs. Amao (supra), and also used the test of the reasonable man exposed in the case of Sketch vs. Okeferi, (supra) to arrive at the conclusion that the words were indeed defamatory. I do agree with the respondent counsel, in line with the decision of Vanguard Media Ltd vs. Olaﬁsoye (supra), that in determining whether the words convey a defamatory meaning, the Court will construe the words according to the fair and natural meaning which would be given them by reasonable person(s) of ordinary intelligence.
In the event, I am of the reasoned view having given the document in contention a clear but dispassionate consideration, that upon a fair and natural understanding of the words employed in exhibit K, the lower Court was right to have arrived at the conclusion that the words therein were defamatory of the respondent. I therefore agree with the lower Court that this ingredient of the tort of libel was well established."
Per BARKA, J.C.A. ADEOYE v. OJU CITATION: (2018) LPELR-44976(CA)
Ingredients which a plaintiﬀ must prove to succeed in an action for defamation; elements of the tort of defamation "
In proving whether a person has been defamed or not the plaintiﬀ, on whom the burden of proof resides, must establish certain ingredients to wit; a. That there was the publication of the material complained of by the defendant. b. That the publication refers to no other person but the plaintiﬀ conclusively, and c. That the publication is defamatory of the plaintiﬀ. See Skye Bank Plc vs. Chief Moses Bolanle Akinpelu (2010) 9 NWLR (pt. 1198) 179, Amuzie vs. Asonye (supra) @ 40."Per BARKA, J.C.A.
"The complaint by the appellant is that his defence of fair comment before the lower Court was not properly considered by the lower Court.
The state of the law is as stated in Makinde vs. Omaghomi (supra), that for a defendant to avail himself of the defense of fair comment, he must establish that:
a. It was based on facts truly stated.
b. It must be an honest expression of the writers real opinion, and
c. It must not contain insinuations of corrupt or dishourable motives on the person, whose conduct or work is criticized, save in so far as such imputation is warranted from the facts, and
d. The defense must be pleaded.
The lower Court from page 510 of the record, after taking addresses on the issue, rightly in my view, proceeded to state that in order to succeed on a plead of justiﬁcation or fair comment as in this case, the defendant has the onus to justify the imputation complained of. See Omonuwa vs. Enogieru (1992) 7 NWLR (pt. 255) 593 @ 603. In other words, the burden is on the appellant as defendant to justify his claim that the statement made was infact a fair comment, or justiﬁed in the circumstances.
This Court said so recently in the case of Ekanem vs. Akpan (2018) LPELR-44036, per Saulawa JCA, agreeing with the decision of Ubeazonu JCA, in the case of Ojukwu vs. Nnoruka (2000) 1 NWLR (pt. 641) 349, to the eﬀect that where the defendant sets up the defense of justiﬁcation for libel, the probative burden on the plaintiﬀ is lessened to some extent, this is because a plea of justiﬁcation invariably implies that: a. An admission that the matter complained of was in fact published by the defendant. b. That the publication is true, thus the onus on him to prove the truth of the statement made."
Per BARKA, J.C.A.