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Libel: when party can not rely on defence of justification


Issues: 1.

Whether the learned trial judge was right in holding that the words, “the above named customer  is indebted to our Oregun branch to the tune specified above and all efforts by the bank to effect recovery have been neglected by the debtor … but please note that it has been difficult to trace the debtor” contained in exhibit E, that is, the appellant’s letter of instruction to its Debt Recovery Agent, and “We have not been able to locate Dr. Tunde Davies at the address he gave us.

Please ask him to get in touch with us for an urgent discussion or let us have his contact address to enable us update our records” contained in the appellant’s letter (exhibit F) to the respondent’s referee (emphasis ours) were defamatory of the person of the respondent.

Whether the learned trial judge was right in holding that the appellant failed to establish the defence of justification when in fact the respondent remains indebted to the appellant in respect of the Ore gun branch till date.

Whether the learned trial judge was right in holding that the defence of qualified privilege cannot avail the appellant in the peculiar circumstances of this case.

Whether the learned trial judge applied the correct legal principles in his assessment of the quantum of damages and in awarding the sum of N4,OOO,OOO (four million naira) as damages against the appellant in favour of the respondent in a case of defamation.


The plaintiff now respondent obtained a loan facility from the Falomo branch of the defendant/appellant’s bank, using his property as collateral. In the course of servicing the loan, the plaintiff/respondent with the consent of the defendant/appellant opened another account at the latter’s Oregun Branch for convenience. After full liquidation of the loan, the plaintiff’s title deeds were returned to him.

Some eight years later, the defendant claimed that he incurred some debts as a result of the charges used to transfer money paid into the Oregun branch of the Falomo Branch and the account at Ore gun branch went into debit. The defendant therefore caused its debt recovery agent to write and claim the debt.

The plaintiff/respondent was aggrieved and filed an action in the High Court of Lagos State claiming the sum of NI 0,000,000.00 (ten million naira) as damages for libel and a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from further acts of libel against him.

The trial court granted plaintiff’s claims in the sum ofN4,OOO,OOO.OO (four million naira). Aggrieved, the defendant/appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

To be concluded next week


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