By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Justice Yetunde Idowu of an Ikeja High Court has ordered a Lagos based auditing firm to pay a sum of N10 million to former Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Hakim Akinlade for defaming him.
In her judgment, Justice Idowu also directed the firm, Kunle Ladejobi & Co. and its officers, namely Kunle Ladejobi, M.A. Abdullahi and Mrs. Tola Gbogboade to do a retraction of the libelous publication and publicise it in the same manner the earlier offensive publication was published.
Dr Akinlade was elected chairman of NMA in 2006 but purportedly removed; following which he filed a process to challenge his removal and obtained a court injunction restraining his removal.
However, the auditing firm, which audited the Lagos State Chapter of the NMA had in February 14, 2008 disowned the Audited Account (Report) of the State NMA and further alleged that the report was forged by the then NMA Chairman.
This denial and forgery allegations was according to Dr. Akinlade in a statement presented to the court were contained in a letter written b y the 2nd and 3rd defendant, Abdullahi and Gbogboade respectively, and circulated among members of the association.
Dissatisfied with the action of the firm, Akinlade through his counsel, Deji Sasegbon(SAN), in October 10, 2008, among others prayed for a declaration that the 2006-2007 audited account circulated at the AGM was not forged by the claimant and was prepared by K.L. & Co., and same emanated from them.
And that the action of the defendant by publishing and circulating the letter dated 14th February, 2008, at the 24th February 2008 meeting of the NMA, Lagos State branch constitutes libel against his person. He also sought for an order of the court that would compel the “Defendants (to) make a rejoinder and also pay him N100 million each as special damages and as general damages.
In her judgement, the judge held that the claimant had successfully proven the case of libel and defamation of character and consequently awarded N10 million to the claimant as general damages.