Saraki Sahara Reporters ordered to pay Senate President N4 billion

The payment is damages for a series of stories published by Sahara Reporters between September and December 2015.

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Senate President, Bukola Saraki play

Senate President, Bukola Saraki

(Guardian)
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Online media publisher, Sahara Reporters has been ordered by an Ilorin High Court to pay Senate President Bukola Saraki the sum of N4 billion as damages for publishing a series of libelous stories about him.

According to Saraki's counsel, Babatunde Olomu, the judgement was handed down by Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye who ruled against the media outfit and its publisher Omoyele Sowore on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

The stories in question were published by Sahara Reporters between September and December 2015.

Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore play

Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore

(Twitter)

 

While speaking with Tribune Online yesterday, Olomu said the defendants refused to argue the case in court even though several summons were issued to that effect.

During the ruling, Justice Oyinloye said, "The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of October 5, 2015 under the caption 'Nigeria at 55: Bukola Saraki and 83 Inmates Are Running the Asylum'

"The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of September 20, 2015 under the caption: 'A polished Name for political immorality. Time for Saraki to Go!'

"The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of November 09, 2015 under the caption: 'Bukola Saraki On a shopping Spree to Buy Judges…Stop Being a Clown And A Coward Man Up, face The Music'

"The sum of N1 billion as general and aggravated damages for libelous words falsely, maliciously and recklessly published by the defendants of and concerning the claimant in the online issue of Sahara Reporters of Sahara Reporters of December 1, 2015 under the caption: 'Arms Contract Scandal: Senator Saraki Blackmailed CBN Officials To Pay N250 Million Hush Funds.'

"An order for injunction restraining the defendants from further writing, printing or causing to be written, printed or circulated or otherwise published of the claimant the said, or similar libel.

"An order directing the defendants to remove the offending publications from its website on the internet within three days from the date of judgment and an order directing the defendants to publish an apology to the claimant on its online newspaper and in three other daily newspapers."

In a reaction to the ruling on Thursday, Saraki released a statement, praising the country's judicial process.

The statement, signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, read, "One thing is clear by the judgement, there are systems in place in our nation for all citizens to seek redress if they have been unfairly treated in any way.

"This judgement is a fulfillment of our promise that we will explore all legal means to seek redress for all the fabrications and mudslinging that Sahara Reporters has thrown at us over the years.

"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.

"Moving forward, the purveyors of mischievous stories can learn from this precedent that has been set.

"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 former Kwara state governor also promised to exhaust all legal means to make sure that Sahara Reporters pay the money, while also making promises on how the money will be spent.

The statement read, "The Senate President will like to assure all and sundry 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."

Saraki's clash with the online media outfit intensified when he was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for false assets declaration when he was Kwara state governor.

The Senate President was cleared of all charges by the Justice Danladi Umar-led Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on June 14, 2017, citing the prosecution's failure to prove the allegations.

Since the ruling, there have been accusations from both camps about irregularities leading up to the tribunal's judgement.

Sowore accused Saraki of bribing Danladi $2 million to gain victory at the tribunal, while Saraki's media aide, Bamikole Omisore, accused Sowore of demanding $1 million to desist from spreading malicious stories about the Senate President.

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