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CHILKIED SECURITY SERVICES AND DOG FARMS LIMITED v. SCHLUMBERGER NIGERIA LIMITED & ANOR

(2018) LPELR-44391(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 27th day of April, 2018

SC.85/2007


Before Their Lordships

KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

PAUL ADAMU GALINJE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

SIDI DAUDA BAGE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

CHILKIED SECURITY SERVICES AND DOG FARMS LIMITED - Appellant(s)

AND

1. SCHLUMBERGER (NIG) LTD
2. MR. PHILIPS MAQUET - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Defamation.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division delivered on 13/4/2006 setting aside the judgment of the High Court of Rivers State sitting at Port Harcourt delivered on 28/11/97.
The appellant a limited liability company, instituted an action before the High Court of Rivers State, seeking N10 million damages for libel and an order of injunction against the respondents. The appellant was a security company engaged by the 1st respondent to provide security guards for its various properties, including its office and warehouse, residential estate and youth corpers' residence at different locations within Port Harcourt. As a result of incessant complaints of stealing and breaking into apartments in the staff quarters at the residential estate, its contract was terminated. It was the appellant's contention at the High Court that the respondents by their letter dated 2/3/92 titled "Threats from the manager of Chilkied Security Services," published libel against it to the following persons:
(i) the Commissioner of Police Rivers State, Mr.O.O. Onogie, 
(ii) the Police,
(iii) the Chief Security Officer at the University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, and 
(iv) the general public.
It was its further contention that the publication was actuated by malice and for the purpose of discrediting and ruining its business. The appellant also claimed that as a result of the libel, it had lost the custom of 21 companies, whose names were pleaded in paragraph 20 of its Amended Statement of Claim. The respondents filed an Amended statement of Defence wherein they raised the defences of qualified privilege and justification. At the trial, the appellant called three witnesses while the respondents called two witnesses in their defence. Documentary evidence was also tendered and relied upon. At the conclusion of the trial, the learned trial Judge entered judgment in the appellant's favour. He awarded the sum of N3,500,000.00 as general damages for libel and granted the order of injunction. The respondents were dissatisfied with the judgment and appealed to the Court of Appeal. In a considered judgment delivered on 13/4/2006, the appeal was allowed and the judgment of the High Court was set aside. Dissatisfied with the decision, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on the issues raised by the Appellant and couched as follows:

1. Whether the Justices of the Court of Appeal properly considered the effect of malice on the defence of qualified privilege as raised by the respondents even where there is reciprocity of interest between the writer and the receiver.
2. Whether the Justices of the Court of Appeal were right or wrong in their evaluation of the facts when they held that the trial Court failed to consider the truth of the information.
3. Whether the Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they held that the appellant's case failed because the situation in which the words were published were privileged without applying the legal effect of malice as pleaded by the appellant. 
4. Whether the Justices of the Court of Appeal properly evaluated the facts when they held that the effect of the words on third parties was not brought to the fore at the hearing.

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.


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