An Ilorin High Court, presided over by Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, has ruled that the publisher of online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, should pay a sum of N4 billion as damage to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The judgement which was passed on Wednesday, June 28, was over a series of libelous stories published against Saraki on Sahara Reporters in between September and December 2015.
The Senate President had, through his lawyer, Babatunde Olomu, asked for the intervention of the court following the publications.
Both Sowore and Sahara Reporters were joined as defendants in the suit marked as KWS/23/2017.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on Thursday, June 29, Olomu said 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, the court agreed with Olomu and granted all the reliefs sought by the claimant in the case.
Meanwhile, Saraki has commended the judgment by the court, stressing that it was a testament that the moral arc of the universe will always bend towards justice.
“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.
“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 statement said.
The Senate President vowed 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,” the statement concluded.