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General News | Dec 2, 2004

Court awards 1.5 billion cedis damages against Dr Wayo

GNA

Accra, Dec. 2, GNA- An Accra Fast Track High Court on Thursday awarded 500 million cedis each against Dr Seini Wayo, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon and two others as damages for publishing malicious and defamatory stories about four government officials. The court further awarded 50 million cedis cost against Dr Wayo, Dr Yahuza Gomda and Dr Adam Gamel Nasser who were not in court. The court had earlier awarded 50 million cedis costs against the defendants.

This was after Mr Evans Gadeto Djikunu who represented the defendants pleaded with the court to reduce the cost for the sake of peace between the two Gates, the Andanis and Abudus.

Lieutenant General Joshua Hamidu, former National Security Adviser, Major (Retired) Abubakar Sulemana, Alhaji Malik Alhassan Yakubu, former Minister of the Interior, and Alhaji Aminu Amadu filed a writ against the four defendants for accusing them of being partly responsible for the death of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, Chief of the Dagbon Traditional Area and 40 others.

In its judgment, the court, presided over Mr Justice George A. Aryeetey noted that it was necessary to look at the conduct of the defendants before, during and after the suit. The court was of the view that after the suit had been filed at the court, the defendants went ahead with a number of publications despite the Wuaku Commission Report and Government's White Paper exonerating them.

According to the Court, the publication would have caused the plaintiffs a lot, saying they could have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment without an option of a fine if those allegations against the plaintiffs had been true, hence the award of aggravated damages. The court noted that the plaintiffs had been able to prove their claims in the suit and therefore the Court entered judgment in respect of the summons.

It disagreed with defence counsel's assertion that the publication had not affected the plaintiffs in any way saying, "if Lt. Gen. Hamidu, who is now the Ghana High Commissioner in Nigeria was still the National Security Adviser, he would have his eyes closer to the President by now."

The other plaintiffs had also resigned from their political positions as result of the publication, the court added. It stated that defendants during the trial could not state the actual murderers of the chief of the Dagbon State and 40 others saying that they only relied on what people had told them.

The Court expressed shock at a witness who gave evidence exonerating the plaintiffs but rather mentioned three persons, including two chiefs believed to be murderers of the King and 40 others. The court observed that the defendants failed to produce names and a list of "crucial witnesses" in court although they had admitted the publication.

Evidence was also led to show that on the date of the Ya Na's assassination there was no flight to the Northern Region because there was a ban on internal flights to the area and plaintiffs were not in Dagbon.

In the plaintiff's statements of claim, they stated that the defendants at a press conference on April 3, 2002, published and spoke maliciously about the plaintiffs and these were used in both the print and electronic media.

They alleged at the press conference that a gang of criminal elements and Liberian mercenaries with the blessing of some security forces, including highly placed officials, invaded the Gbewa Palace on March 25 to 27 and killed Ya-Na and 40 others.

They further alleged that those elements did join the New Patriotic Party (NPP) with ulterior motives of scarifying the Ya-Na. The plaintiff's further stated that at the press conference, the defendants categorically mentioned the plaintiffs as being part of the giant conspiracy to commit those heinous crimes.

According to the plaintiffs, the defendants were demanding the arrest and resignation of the plaintiffs since the offence they had committed was monstrous and ignominious against the citizens of the Dagbon State. As result of the persisted false allegation engendered by the said words there was considerable pressure on the plaintiffs to resign their positions.

They stated that the publication had "injured their characters; reputation and it had also brought them into public scandal, odium and contempt".

The plaintiffs were therefore claiming damages and injunction restraining the defendants whether by themselves or by their agents or otherwise from publishing any similar words defamatory to the plaintiffs.

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