Court adjourns Awujale’s N200 billion libel case against Ayefele
The Oyo State High Court in Ibadan, presided over by Justice Olusola Adetujoye, has adjourned the hearing in the N200 billion libel suit filed by the Awujale and supreme ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, against Yinka Aiyefele Limited, the proprietor of Fresh FM 105.9 Radio Station, on Tuesday until sine die.
Oba Adetona has filed an 11-paragraph statement of claim asking for N200 billion in damages for claimed libel in the radio program “Talk Your Own with Chikito Duru,” which was produced and broadcast by the defendant on Fresh FM 105.9 Ibadan on December 22, 2019.
From December 22, 2019 to September 4, 2020, it was rumored to have been simultaneously transmitted online and preserved on its news server.
A court order of injunction prohibiting the defendant from posting or causing to be published any more similar or identical defamatory statements about or about the claimant or the expense of the lawsuit is also sought by the traditional ruler.
The only defendant in the lawsuit with the case number I/972/2020 was named as Yinka Ayefele Limited by the plaintiff, Awujale, through his attorney, O. Ayanlaja, SAN of M/S Ayanlaja, Adesanya & Co.
According to Ayanlaja, the words used on the radio program referred to and were understood to refer to the claimant in their natural and ordinary meaning and were intended to disparage the claimant in both his position as a person of international renown and as the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland.
Ayanlaja claimed that the claimant had also suffered harm to his reputation, character, and credit as well as a decrease in the respect of right-thinking society members and emotional hurt.
Since it was allegedly supposed to have happened in 1984, The Awujale insisted that Yinka Ayefele Limited was aware that the alleged comments were false and defamatory.
He stated that Yinka Ayefele Limited was negligent in its failure to verify the accuracy of the publication and that it was instead blinded by the idea of the potential financial benefit of employing the person and office of the Awujale to increase listenership to its programs.
“The claimant’s reputation and integrity have been damaged by the false publication, as people who held the claimant in high esteem have been made to doubt his honour and even expressed their doubts to his face.
[This they did] by asking why he raised a heinous curse on the Ijebus and the Nigerian nation and which curse has brought destruction and economic calamity to Ijebuland and the Nigerian nation at large.”
The Awujale said that between January and May 2020, he received numerous calls from some of his subjects in Nigeria and the Diaspora informing him that some unfavorable tales were being circulated on the defendant’s website.
On August 10, 2020, the claimant sent a letter to Yinka Ayefele Limited through his attorney requesting an apology, a retraction of the defamatory article, its total removal from the defendant’s internet radio server program, and the payment of damages.
The defendant allegedly ignored the claimant’s letter, refused to react to it, and instead dispatched a delegation to the solicitor’s offices on August 20, 2020, where they begged the claimant to respond.
The traditional chief claimed that after the internet radio publication had been trending for more than eight months, Yinka Ayefele Limited withdrew it from its server on September 4, 2020.
The Awujale maintained that, in contrast to the defendant’s radio station broadcast, there was never a time when he cursed Ijebuland and that the company’s structures were unharmed because there was no fire outbreak there.
He said that sometime in May 2020, one of his chiefs, Dr. Fassy Yusuf, had first brought to his attention the program regarding his person and office as the Awujale and paramount monarch of Ijebuland.
Chief Yomi Alliyu SAN, the attorney for Yinka Ayefele Limited, submitted a Statement of Defence on March 12, 2021, raising the defense of qualified privilege.
He claimed that because the presenter’s name was listed as “Talk Your Own With Chikito Duru,” it was a live program, making the station the unwitting distributor of the alleged libel.
In paragraph 15 of the aforementioned defense, the defendant expressed regret to the Awujale by saying:
“the Defendant, having brought down the programme complained against by the claimant from the Facebook and, having apologised profusely in the same mode of broadcast and on record in this Court, is no longer in a position to repeat the words complained of and/or similar words in future.
And [he] hereby further apologise as it has no reason to ridicule the claimant and/or expose him to public odium or lower kabiyesi’s reputation by the right-thinking members of the society.
And [he] has no malice, real and/or technical, against the claimant who is held in high esteem by members of the society, including all members of staff and management of the defendant whose actions throughout was to inform Ijebu sons and daughters interested in the development of their land to approach the claimant to remove any curse, if any, leading to the departure in droves by companies hitherto operating in their land and the defendant received favourable response from Ijebu listeners of the programme.”
The case was heard on July 14, 2022, with Adesanya, Adetola, and Atanda representing the claimant and Chief Yomi Alliyu, Dipo Olasope, Thelma Otaigbe-Oluleye, and Adeyemi Omoniyi representing the defendant.
Four applications to join the host and the guest as third parties were submitted to the court by Yinka Ayefele Limited.
Thirdly, permission to appeal; and finally, a move to halt the proceedings. The notice of appeal was filed in response to the court’s prior decision over the preliminary objection that the case does not disclose any cause of action recognized by law.
Other than the request for a delay of the proceedings, the Awujale’s attorney concurred to everything; however, the court did not permit the three motions to be made.
Due to the counsels’ inability to agree on a date, the matter’s further hearing was sine die adjourned.