Court Awards N4b Damages Against Online Publisher

Sowore Omoyele,  Publisher, Sahara Reporters
Sowore Omoyele,
Sahara Reporters

A Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital, on July 25, 2017 awarded N4 billion as damages to the Senate President, Dr. Saraki against Mr. Sowore Omoyele and Sahara Reporters, an online news portal. Justice Adeyinka Oyinloye, the presiding judge also froze the news organisation’s bank accounts.

The Senate President accused Sowore and the medium, of publishing a series of stories between September and December 2015 that allegedly libeled him.

Dr. Saraki had, through his lawyer, Babatunde Olomu, approached the court following a series of stories published by the site about him which he considered libelous. He joined Sowore and Sahara Reporters as defendants in the suit.

Justice Oyinloye issued an order to the United Bank for Africa, and Guaranty Trust Bank Sowore’s bankers instructing them to immediately freeze all funds held in a number of accounts associated with Sowore and the medium.

In the judgment delivered on July 25, 2017, the court ruled that Sowore should pay the sum of N4 billion as damage to Dr. Saraki for the alleged libelous publications and must pay 10 per cent (N400 million) interest monthly on the N4 billion until both the principal and accrued interests are fully cleared.

The Senate President vowed he will not spare any legal effort and expenses, both in Nigeria and abroad, necessary to recover every kobo of the cost awarded in his favour from Sowore.

Dr. Saraki promised to use the money to support genuine publications whose owners are struggling to pay salaries of workers or meet their ever rising running cost and also to help lawyers who have been providing pro bono services to litigants, particularly, on cases bothering on enforcement of fundamental human rights.

In his reaction, Sowore said the July 25 garnishee order in Ilorin was “fraudulently procured” by the Senate President as part of an ongoing libel suit against him and his platform.