The President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Engr. Olatunji received an International Award on the 26th day of April, 2016 from the British Engineering Society as Africa’s Most Industrious and Exception Leader of the Society. He was celebrated by countless of well-wishers who extended their congratulatory message to him in the newspapers, radio stations, televisions, internet among other media.
Upon his return from the United Kingdom, the Secretary of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Chief Kyrian met him personally in his office and confronted him that he does not deserve the award but was awarded erroneously because the British Engineering Society had no idea how much he(Engr. Olatunji) had siphoned from the purse of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and his betrayal of the Society at large
This didn’t go well with the Engr. Olatunji at all and he went ahead to tell his P.A., Miss Ajayi who told him it was defamation and Chief Kyrian shouldn’t go without paying seriously for such. On the 9th of January, 2017, Engr. Olatunji was invited to a television programme at Diamond T.V. where he made the statement, “Even International Bodies have recognised my exceptional leadership and industry so, people will have diverse opinions but those in their right senses will appreciate us. Imagine, the Secretary of the Society, Chief Kyrian was one of those that confronted me that I don’t deserve the award claiming I’ve betrayed the Society and embezzled her funds”.
The following day, Engr. Olatunji got some members of the Nigerian Police Force from the Lekki Police Division who detained Chief Kyrian at the Station. Chief Kyrian’s wife, Dr. Dorris has called on me to seek legal advice and intervention especially now that Engr. Olatunji promised to sue for libel in turn of N5,000,000,000
Points to Note:
1. Defamation is any act done by one to bring done the reputation of another in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.
2. There are two (2) types of defamation: (i) Libel, which, in general, is written (some have included defamatory content contained in discs, flashdrive etc) and (ii) Slander, which, in general, is oral. For example, the lady that lied on twitter that Davido impregnated her can be held liable for Libel while the man that made false allegation in a public meeting that the Chairman is a rapist can be held liable for slander.
3. The purpose of both is to protect the interest in his reputation which everybody enjoys: there is, therefore, no defamation unless there has been a communication of the defamatory matter to a third party for it is the opinion held of the person defamed by others that matters.
4. Insults directed to the person himself do not in themselves constitute defamation since it is not primarily concerned with the plaintiff’s wounded feelings.
5. There are defences a person can raise as follows:
A person who alleges that he has been defamed need not prove that it is false because the law presumes this in his favour. However, if the person he claims has defamed him can prove it’s truth, he will be free.
(ii) Fair Comment
It is a defence that the statement was fair comment on the matter of public interest. Thus, if a person tells people that another has Ebola so the virus won’t spread, he won’t be liable for defamation.
(iii) Absolute Privilege
There are some occasions that are deemed to be so important that those making statements upon them are not liable in defamation even though their statements are untrue or even malicious. Examples are legislative proceedings, court proceedings etc
(iv) Qualified Privilege
There are some situations in which it is thought desirable that reflections on the reputation of another, although untrue, should not give rise to an action for defamation, provided that they were not published with “malice”.
6. Defamation is a civil matter (although there’s is also criminal defamation) and does not require the police to arrest or detain the other party.
You should be able to ascertain my advice for both parties.
Chief Kyrian did not defame Engr. Olatunji because there was no other person in the office during the confrontation. The fact that Engr. Olatunji went ahead to tell people himself does not amount to defamation or, at best, he was the one who defamed himself.
Also, Chief Kyrian’s wife, Dr. Dorris is advised to get a Lawyer to write to the Police Station demanding the immediate release of her husband who has been detained unlawfully without committing any offence.
MY LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede