The Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State, on December 4, 2018, set aside a High Court judgment that awarded ₦4 billion in damages against the online news medium, SaharaReporters and its founder, Omoyele Sowore, in favour of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Unanimously setting aside the lower court judgement, Justices Ibrahim Salauwa, Chidi Uwa and Hamma Barka ruled that the matter be assigned to a new judge at the lower court for retrial.
Justice A. S. Oyinloye of the Kwara State High Court, Ilorin had on June 28, 2017 awarded N4 Billion damages in a defamation case filed by Bukola Saraki against Sahara Reporters and Sowore Omoyele.
Saraki had, in 2017, taken Sowore and the online medium to court for alleged defamation and demanded N1 billion each as general damages for four different publications on the website. He also sought for an injunction restraining them from further writing, printing or causing to be written, printed or circulated or otherwise published of him, the said or similar libel.
Faulting the High Court judgment, Stanley Imhanruor, a senior lawyer from Falana & Falana’s Chambers, argued that his clients were neither served in the motion on notice nor were they given an opportunity to defend themselves during the hearings that led to Justice Oyinloye’s judgment.
Paul Erokoro, Saraki’s lead counsel, on his part claimed that he could not serve the counter affidavit on Sahara Reporters’ counsel because there was no address for service within the court’s jurisdiction. He argued that he had no obligation to serve the counsel directly unless the court ordered him to do so or if he sought the court’s leave to serve the counsel directly.
Imhanruor contested Erokoro’s argument saying he failed to deliver on his promise to deliver the counter affidavit.