Court Orders Tony Okoroji To Pay Mayo Ayilaran N22m For Defamation

A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja has asked the Chairman, Board of Directors, the Copyright Society of Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, to pay Mr. Mayo Ayilaran of Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Limited the sum of N25m as damages for a defamatory letter written by the defendant against the claimant.
In a judgement delivered by Justice O. Femi-Adeniyi on October 22, 2014, the judgment debtor is also to pay an interest of 10 per cent per annum until the judgement sum is liquidated.
Ayilaran had in, 2002, instituted a legal action against Okoroji claiming that he defamed his character through a letter dated December 4, 2001.
The letter, according to the claimant, was addressed to the Performing Rights Society Limited, United Kingdom Copying the International Federation of Societies of Authors and Composers and the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
Ayilara, in a writ of summons dated April 16, 2002 alleged that Okoroji, in the letter titled “PRS Activities in Nigeria: Serving the Interest of the Authors/Composers or Mayo Ayilaran?” described him as a dishonest, fraudulent, difficult, problematic and dissatisfied individual.
He said the defendant had, in the letter, accused him of operating an illegal collection society for years, adding that he was facing criminal charges over the crime.
But the claimant had gone to court asking for N100m in damages against the defendant.
In Justice Femi-Adeniyi’s judgement, a copy of which was obtained by the press on Thursday, it was noted that Okoroji did not deny authorship of the said letter.
The court also noted that the defendant contended during the trial that he wrote the letter in his capacity as the chairman of the Performing and Mechanical Right Society of Nigeria.
The court held the letter was carefully written and clearly intended to cause the claimant harms.
“The said letter contains three pages of writing carefully divided under sub-heads and was written in response to letters allegedly written to members of PMRS.
“I find and hold that the words used therein, which are disparaging of the claimant, are not mere vulgar abuse but that they were used intentionally and with the motive to remove the claimant in favour with the recipients of the letter.
“The defendant has not been able to successfully give lawful justification for the words he has used in relation to the claimant in the said letter to remove him from liability and I so hold,” the judge said.
While noting that Okoroji continued to insist even during trial that the claimant was indeed as he had been described, the judge pointed out that Okoroji’s allegations were not supported by any shred of evidence.
Justice Femi-Adeniyi held, “The defendant also alleged that the claimant was facing criminal charges based on the illegality. However, this allegation was not supported by the production of any charge sheet proffered against the claimant as exhibit before the court, or even the proceedings of the criminal prosecution. Rather, it was the claimant who tendered exhibit C23, the order striking out the charge against him in the Federal High Court given on June 18, 2002.”


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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