A Lagos State High Court has awarded N10 million as general damages against Ms. Ladun Liadi, a blogger on GOOGLE blogging platform, for defaming Dr. Nicholas Okoye, the Chief Executive of ANABEL Group.

In a landmark case on Internet libel marked Suit No: LD/ 170/2012 and brought by Okoye against Ladun Liadi, GOOGLE Inc and GOOGLE Nigeria, Justice Adedayo Akintoye berated the blogger for a post which attracted adverse comments against the telecoms top-notch.

Said Justice Akintoye: “I find it most distasteful that a person can write an article which elicits such vile and derogatory comments against another human being and not take down the derogatory comments when they came to her attention, if indeed she did not intend her post to elicit the reactions from the public which followed her post.”

Continuing, the judge held that “I find therefore that the publication and transmission of the libel contained in pages 1-24 of Friday 6th April 2012 to Thursday 12th April 2012 material written, printed, published, transmitted on blogger service by the 1st Defendant LadunLiadi (sic) are defamatory to the claimant.”

The court held that “Damages in the sum of N10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira) for libel is awarded to the Claimant and is to be paid by the 1st Defendant Ladun Liadi to the Claimant Nicholas Okoye.”

The judge noted that the claimant’s prayer for removal of the libelous statements “has been overtaken by events as the offensive article has already been removed from the 1st Defendant’s blog.”

The court however granted “a perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant Ladun Liadi either by herself, her servants, agents, and/or privies or otherwise from publishing and/or further publishing and/or causing to be published the same or similar words defamatory to the claimant in any medium and/or from whomsoever.”

Turning to legal costs for the claimant, the court also awarded the sum of N1 million “for legal representation inclusive of cost of action in favour of the claimant.” Okoye was represented by his Lead Counsel, Chief Emeka Okwuosa of Messrs The Chancery Associates.

Turning to the 2nd and 3rd defendants, the court held that GOOGLE Inc were mere Internet intermediaries who had put frameworks in place for bloggers to moderate comments on their blogs, saying: “I agree with learned counsel to the 2nd defendant that given this large volume of words and the speed with which they are posted it appears humanly impossible for the 2nd Defendant to implement any policies of procedures which would require human or manual screening of all contents uploaded by bloggers such as the 1st Defendant towards detecting and preventing publication of defamatory content. I agree therefore that the 2nd Defendant cannot be said to have known that the alleged publication was defamatory.”

The court also held that the 3rd Defendant, GOOGLE Nigeria, is a separate legal entity from the 2nd defendant, adding that “The 3rd Defendant has therefore not defamed the claimant in any way or breached the claimant (sic) privacy right in any way and I so hold.”

The claimant had through Okwuosa sought “A declaration that the publication and transmission of the libel contained in pages 1-24 of the materials posted and captioned “What happened to Anabel Mobile?” dated Friday, 6th April, 2012 to Thursday, 12th April, 2012 by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants vide the 1st Defendant’s blog, are false, malicious, and defamatory to the claimant.”

The claimant also prayed for the sum of N250,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira Only) damages against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants for publication and transmission of the libelous statements. Aside from another N250 million as exemplary damages, the claimant also sought N30 million as legal representation and cost of action.

The case is regarded as one of the first Internet libel cases to be decided in Nigeria where the court has held a blogger liable for libel committed via the GOOGLE platform, It is believed to have contributed to online defamation jurisprudence while setting a benchmark for protection of privacy rights and limits for freedom of expression and of the Press.

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