Defamation: Court directs NAN to pay N100m damages to Prophet Omale

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja has awarded N100million damages against the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) for publishing libelous news story against Prophet Emmanuel Omale of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministries International, Abuja.
Delivering judgment on Tuesday, Justice Yusuf Halilu awarded N50million as general damages to Omale and another N50million as aggravated damages, totaling N100million.

Justice Halilu also gave an order compelling NAN to publish public apology to Prophet Omale in three national newspapers with online visibility.
The judge further ordered that such libelous publication should never ever be made against Omale again by NAN.

It is instructive to note that Prophet Omale had on July 27, 2020 through his lawyer, Chief Goddy Uche (SAN), instituted a legal action againts NAN, seeking for N1billion as aggravated and general damages.

The News Agency of Nigeria had on July 11, 2020 published the libelous publication on its website in which it alleged falsely that Prophet Omale has laundered N500million abroad for the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.

But the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), through which the amount originated from, later tendered a public apology to Omale over a N573 million payment error.

The FCMB managing director, Adamu Nuru, had told the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets (PCARA) that the bank made an error of posting N573 million into the church’s account while NAN published the report in its website.

The bank later clarified that there was a system error that affected Omale’s account but no transfer was made.

Omale later dragged FCMB to court while the same Justice Halilu Yusuf ordered the bank to pay N540.5 million in damages to Omale and his wife, Deborah, over false claim that they laundered N573 million for Magu.

In his judgement on October 4, Justice Halilu held that the bank breached its “duty of care to the claimants,” the Omales and their church.

The judge further held that the evidence before the court showed that the bank admitted error in its report to the NFIU of entries in the account of Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry which was accused of laundering money on Magu’s behalf.
The judge added that the bank claimed that the purported N573 million was wrongly reflected as credit entry in Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry’s account by its reporting system, which it recently upgraded.

The judge also held that FCMB admitted the error, which brought incalculable damage to the reputation of the claimants both within and outside the Nigeria – depleting their church’s membership.

Justice Halilu added that the claimants provided sufficient evidence to establish case of negligence against FCMB.