By Jethro Ibileke
The Supreme Court of the Student Union Government of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), has acquitted the President of the Students Union Government (SUG) of the institution, Foster Osazee Amadin of a case of libel against him.
The defendants, Comrade Oredia Destiny, Secretary General, Comrade Ekene Aninze, Attorney-General, Comrade Omoregie Sylvester, Assistant Secretary-General and Comrade Benson Osademe Nwabere, Director of Sports, had on 23 March 2022, who were elected along with the claimant as members of the executive council of the Union in 2020/2021, had collectively authored and published a disparaging article against the claimant and same was shared online media, including the popular Sahara Reporters.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Justice U. Igwe and J.O. John had told the court that the defendants made the libelous publication against their client over some disagreement in respect to some minor administrative decisions.
According to them, “The disagreement culminated in what appeared to be loss of affection between the claimant and the defendants….[who] wanted to lord the administrative decisions on the claimant.
“Out of sheer malice and in a bid to malign the image of the claimant, the defendants collectively authored and published a disparaging article against the claimant.”
They averred further that the publication by the defendants defamed his client because the depositions in the said publication were false,fallacious, fabricated and borne out of malice, that the publication described his client as “a serial violator of the dictate of the union’s constitution, an unfeeling individual who justified the use of harmful chemical on students.
Others are: “a fraudulent and dishonest individual who milked the union’s treasury at his convenience and a totalitarian leader who has buried a number of students-related issues under the soil.
In an unanimous judgement by the seven-man panel, the court held that it is a general rule that a defendant commits the tort of defamation (libel) when he publishes an untrue article, which reduces the reputation of the claimant in the eyes of the right thinking members of the society.
It addad that counsel to the plaintiff were able to establish a case of defamation against the defendants who were not represented by counsel, in spite of being served with the court processes and hearing notice.
Justice Abida Israel Opah, who delivered the lead judgment restrained the defendants, their agents and/or servants from further writing or publication of libelous articles against the claimant.
The other six Justices that concurred with the Chief Justice are Justice Oseghale Barnabas Ezra, Justice Awoh Sunday Theodore, Justice Edomwonyi Precious Aisosa, Justice Amajuoyi Obinna, Justice Idemudia O. Michael and Justice Richard Osaretin Emmanuel.