Wike gets N200m libel judgment from newspaper house

...firm maintains ground, refuses to apologise

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on February 27, 2023, won a N200m libel suit at a Port Harcourt High Court against a major national newspaper.

The high court sitting in Port Harcourt delivered judgment against ThisDay Newspaper and awarded N200m to repair Wike’s damaged reputation.

The defendants in the suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 were Thisday Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.

ThisDay Newspapers had published an article entitled, ‘With a Friend Like Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo.’ Wike filed a N7bn suit against them.

Wike had claimed in the suit that the newspaper’s publication of June 23, 2020 was intended to damage his character; portray him as deceitful and untrustworthy person.

The presiding judge of the High Court, Adolphus Enebeli, while delivering judgment on the matter said the defendants committed the libellous offence against Wike.

“From whatever angle one looks at it, I cannot but hold that the claimant has proved that the said article and its online version of 23rd of June, 2020 were purely defamatory of the claimant and he has been injured in his person, trade, professional body and is hereby title to damage.”

In determining the value of damage and the cost to repair it, the judge said: “The claimant, apart from being the governor of Rivers State, a politician, he is also a lawyer by profession by calling, and he is a life bencher, an august body of the legal profession and with numerous national and state laurels as evidence shows. It will not be just and right for him to live with a permanent apparent stigma of being an influencer of court cases and judges as if noble judges are his lackeys and protegees.”

The judge observed that the newspaper has been in the practice of journalism over the years in Nigeria. “Therefore, the defendants ought not to have allowed themselves witting or wittingly to slide into what is called yellow journalism”.

The judge issued a mandatory injunction against the newspaper to publish a retraction of the article on its front page while also publishing an apology on the back page in two separate editions. The judge gave other orders against the newspaper against further publications.

Speaking to journalists after the judgement, Mark Agwu, counsel to Wike, said they have accepted the N200m awarded, saying while the case lasted, ThisDay vehemently refused to publish an apology to show they made a mistake.

He said the newspaper insisted they made a privileged communication.

“If you listen to His Excellency when he testified, he said there is no amount of money that can actually assuage the damage done to his good name.

Also speaking to journalists, counsel to ThisDay Newspapers Limited, Odum C. Eyiba, said he will apply for a copy of the judgement, study it and advise his client appropriately.