By Nkasi Kolie
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, Abuja, on Tuesday dismissed a N5 billion defamation suit filed by Raymond Dokpesi against the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Dokpesi had in the N5 billion libel suit, claimed that the minister’s alleged inclusion of his name among supposed looters of the nation’s treasury had defamed him and damaged his reputation.
He accordingly, demanded N5 billion damages and public apology to be published in five national dailies, among other reliefs.
However, in his judgment, on Tuesday Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, held that Dokpesi failed to establish his claim that he was, indeed, defamed by the minister by the inclusion of his name in a list of looters, at a press conference on March 30, 2018, by the minister.
Besides, Justice Adeniyi faulted the evidence led by Dokpesi through the eight witnesses he called and held that the claimant failed to prove the publication of the alleged defamatory statement.
The Judge specifically noted that the evidence of the eight witnesses were similar, giving the impression that they were tutored and that their statements were made beforehand through the same mechanical means.
He described their evidence before the court as “hear one, hear all,” as they were materially the same.
The court further noted that whereas the claimant pleaded libel, his witnesses gave evidence of slander by claiming to have heard of the alleged defamatory publication on national television.
It further found that the witnesses called by Dokpesi, who claimed to have watched the press conference on television, did not give evidence in respect of the exact statement made by Mohammed, which they claimed defamed the claimant.
Upon examination, I do not find the claimant’s witnesses’ evidence under cross-examination as helpful in establishing publication.
At best, the totality of their testimony, stating that they heard the first defendant calling the claimant a looter, amounted to speculation as they failed to give evidence as to the exact words allegedly spoken by the first defendant.
In dismissing the suit, Justice Adeniyi further added that the claimant’s failure to prove that the alleged defamatory statement was published to the witnesses fatally paralysed his case