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Daily Times of Nig. Plc v. Magoro

DAILY TIMES OF NIG. PLC. & 3 ORS

ONYEMA UGOCHUKWU

CHARLES ONI

BLESSING OHUKOGU

V

MAJOR-GENERAL MOHAMMED MAGORO (RTD)

COURT OF APPEAL

( LAGOS DIVISION )

GEORGE ADESOLA OGUNTADE, J.C.A (Presided)

SULEIMAN GALADIMA, J.C.A.  (Read the Leading Judgment)

AMIRU SANUSI, J.C.A

CA/L/45/96

WEDNESDAY 19TH APRIL, 2000

          LIBEL - Legal innuendoes - How pleaded

LIBEL - Legal innuendoes and special imputations - Pleading of  Particulars of special facts and circumstances - absence of - Order 16 Rule 5 (2) High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 1972.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE  - Libel - Legal innuendoes and Special imputations - How Pleaded.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Cause of action - Pleading - Insufficient facts and particulars - Effect.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Legal innuendoes  -  Mode of pleading

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Libel - Pleading - Particulars of Special facts and circumstances - need to plead and prove

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Libel - Pleading - Particulars of Special imputations - How pleaded.

WORDS AND PHRASES - Legal innuendo - Meaning of

Issue:

Whether the statement of claim and further and better particulars of claim filed by the Plaintiff/Respondent contained sufficient material averments for a claim for libel based on legal and special innuendoes; and if not, whether paragraphs 7 (i) (ii) and 8 (i) (ii) of the statement of claim (wherein Plaintiff purport to allege legal and special innuendoes) ought to be struck out together with the entire statement of claim  for want of reasonable cause of action.

Facts:

The Plaintiff, now Respondent, sued the Defendants, now Appellants, for libel claiming N100 million. The alleged libel said to be contained in the Daily Times issue of 23/10/91 never referred to the Respondent by name, or description. Consequently, the Defendants/Appellants applied to the Respondent by letter  dated 10 /2/93 for further and better particulars of the statement of claim. The Plaintiff/ Respondent, apart from naming Major General Buhari (Rtd) and  Major General Tunde Idiagbon  (Rtd) as being among the several persons to whom the publication was made, and who understood it referred to the Plaintiff, contained no special facts and circumstances that  were extrinsic to the publication.

The Defendants/Appellants applied to the trial court to have the statement of claim struck out on the grounds that the same disclosed  no reasonable cause of action, is vexatious, and/or tend to prejudice or delay the fair trial of the action. The learned trial Judge dismissed the Appellants’ application. Before dismissing the Appellants’ application, the learned trial Judge arrived at the following findings in his ruling:

“1. Although the defendants have ascribed an allegation of “legal innuendo”  to the claim of the Plaintiff, the plaintiff has not denied that he also claim (sic) “legal or special  innuendo”

“2. That being the position,  it was incumbent on the plaintiff to furnish the particulars required by the defendant.

“3. That the particulars furnished by the plaintiff in response to the defendant’s request for particulars as contained in Exhibit ‘C’ attached to the affidavit in support of the motion are sufficient.

“4. The explanation of the meaning of the word “echelon,” by reference to paragraph 3 of the alleged defamatory publication, was unnecessary.”

Aggrieved by the ruling that the further and better particulars of claim (Exhibit “C”) contain sufficient facts of “legal innuendo” to ground a reasonable cause of action, the Defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal. The court considered the import of  Order 16 Rule (5) (12), High Court of Lagos State Civil Procedure Rule, 1972  which provides thus :

“ In an action for libel or slander, if the plaintiff alleges that the words or matters complained of were used in a defamatory sense other than their ordinary meaning, he shall give particulars of the facts and matters on which he relies in support of his allegation.”