Court Hammers UBA Over Libelous Publication
An Igbosere High Court of Lagos State, has ordered United Bank of Africa (UBA) Plc, to pay a total sun of N1m to one of its customers, Mrs. Ademiniyi Juyitan-Adetola, for libelous and malicious publications.
The court presided over by Justice Kudirat A. Jose, also declared that UBA Plc, breached the fiduciary duty and obligation which it owned the customer, as it published false, malicious, libelous and defamatory credit information report of the Customer, to the CRC Credit Bureau Limited and Diamond Bank of Nigeria.
Justice Jose also declared that UBA Plc’s publication of the false and libelous credit information report to the CRC Credit Bureau Limited and the defunct Diamond Bank Plc, has discredited, lowered and damaged the reputation of the bank’s customer in the eyes of the general public.
Justice Jose made the order and declaration while delivering ruling in a suit filed by Mrs. Juyitan-Adetola against UBA Plc and CRC Credit Bureau Limited.
Juyitan-Adetola had dragged both UBA Plc and CRC Credit Bureau Limited before the court in a suit marked LD/3428CMW/2018, seeking several declarations which included: a declaration that the UBA Plc breached the fiduciary duty and obligation which it owes to her as her banker by publishing false malicious, libelous and defamatory credit information report of the Claimant to the CRC Credit Bureau Limited and Diamond Bank Plc.
She also asked the court for a declaration that UBA Plc’s publication of the false and libelous credit information report to the CRC Credit Bureau Limited and Diamond Bank Plc has discredited, lowered and damaged the Claimant’s reputation in the eyes of the general public. And a declaration that CRC Credit Bureau Limited’s republication of the false, inaccurate and libelous credit information report received from UBA PLC to Diamond Bank Plc has discredited lowered and damaged the Claimant’s reputation in the eyes of Diamond Bank, its staff and the general public.
The claimant also asked the court for an order to compel both UBA Plc and CRC Credit Bureau Limited, to pay the sum of N1 Billion Naira to her, as general damages for the injury suffered by her as a result of the defendant’s publication. And an order compelling them to pay her the sum of N20 Million, as punitive or exemplary damages for the recklessness, carelessness and gross negligence exhibited by them in publishing false credit information report to Diamond Bank Plc, its staff and the general public.
She also asked the court for a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, privies, affiliates, assignors and licensors from further publishing any false malicious, libelous and defamatory credit information report about her. And an order mandating the defendants to publish a full and unqualified apology to her in the front pages of two widely read/ circulated national daily newspapers specifically ThisDay Newspaper and the Guardian Newspaper for the false, malicious, libelous and defamatory publication. The claimant also demanded for the sum of N5 Million, as cost of instituting the case against the defendants.
Responding to the suit, UBA Plc in a statement on oath deposed to by its Head of Administration, Bankole Adesanmi, who also testified in-chief before the court, denied publishing libelous and malicious publication against the claimant. He stated that his employee only did reported the claimant to the CRC Credit Bureau Limited, over her refusal to pay the balance of N9,859, 00, Blackberry charges, which was rightly reported in line With banking practice and the Credit Reporting Act 2017 as well as CBN regulations on all accounts in debit.
The bank, while urged the court to dismiss the suit, also stated that the claimant’s account was in debit between February 2, 2017 and May 3, 2017 with a past due date of 52 days and the approved limit was stated as zero because the balance was not as a result of any facility granted to the Claimant.
The bank also stated that it did not submit any negative report between 3rd May 2017 to the time of receipt of the complaint on September 29, 2017 and the second defendant captured this in its report with the acronyms ND which meant no further debit data supplied.
However, Justice Jose, while delivering judgment in the suit held that: “having examined all the ingredients of the case, I would hold that the claimant of libel against the first defendant while it was not proved against the second defendant, who published the report under the circumstance of qualified privilege.
“Since libel has been proved, iam of the view that the sum of N500, 000.00, will suffice as general damage to be awarded against the first defendant (UBA Plc) in favour of the claimant.
“In sum the court grant the claimant’s reliefs one, two. Relief three is granted to the extent that the sun of N500, 000.00, is awarded in her favour as general damages. All other claimed daily and hereby dismissed.
“N500, 00.00 cost is awarded in favour of the claimant against the first defendant”.