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Court orders newspaper to pay El-Rufai N10m damages over ‘defamatory article’

A Kaduna State High Court has ordered Today Publishing Company, publishers of The Union newspaper, to pay N10 million as damages for defamatory article on the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

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The court also ordered the company to tender a public apology to the governor which must be published in national dailies.

El-Rufai had sued the newspaper for publishing false claims about his assets declaration.

The Union newspaper had on July 2, 2015, published a frontpage story claiming that the governor had declared assets worth N90 billion and 40 mansions.

In the judgment delivered on Monday, the presiding judge, Mairo Muhammed, also restrained the defendants from further publishing defamatory article on the governor.

The court held that El-Rufai had shown that the offending material was published to third parties by the defendants.

“The plaintiff had satisfactorily shown that he did not declare assets worth N90 billion and 40 mansions, the implication of which is that the words were false and defamatory of the plaintiff,” the judge held.

Reacting, El-Rufai’s counsel, AbdulHakeem Mustapha, described the judgement as “a well considered judgement which was replete with industry and erudition.”

Also speaking, the governor said the “the freedom to publish is not a license to defame people or cloth rumour-mongering and malice as journalism.”

According to El-Rufai, he “approached the court and personally testified in the case as a demonstration of his belief in the rule of law.”

The governor said he had taken a stand against securing apologies from other newspapers for libel which informs his continued pursuit of other instances of defamation in the courts.

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