N700m libel suit: Asa’s absence in court stalls hearing

The N700m suit filed by jazz and soul musician, Bukola Elemide, popularly known as Asa, against publishers of a Lagos-based magazine, News of the People, was on Thursday stalled due to the musician’s absence in court.

Asa and her manager, Janet Nwose, instituted the suit seeking the court to declare that an allegation contained  in the December 14-22, 2009 edition of the magazine that they were lesbians was defamatory .

 The said story was said to have contained the pictures of both claimants and the story entitled “Lesbianism trails Asa and manager”.

 The suit, with number LD/208/010, was slated for the cross-examination of Asa by the defence on Thursday. But the matter could not go on as the musician was said to be out of the country.

Asa explained in a letter she addressed to the Registrar of the court that her failure to be in court was due to her engagements outside the country.

 Justice Adenike Coker thereafter acceded to the application by the claimants’ lawyer to adjourn the matter to enable Asa to make herself available for cross-examination. The matter was adjourned till April 26.

The claimants are seeking for an order of the court to declare that the allegation of lesbianism against them  was false, illegal and a violation of their rights.

 They described the allegation as false and malicious and asked the court to restrain its further publication. They claimed the publication was a clear case of a well-orchestrated plan by the publishers of the magazine to bring her down and draw her into disrepute.

Asa added that it was calculated to discredit and malign her  “unblemished career as international music artiste with high moral standing which she has consistently conveyed in her songs.”

The claimants  said they filed the action to clear their names and to sustain their good reputation. They therefore sought the court to award the sum N700m as damages against the respondents.

But the respondents, through their lawyer, Mr. Yinka Muyiwa, maintained in their statement of defence that the publication was not defamatory. They argued that the suit was misconceived, malicious and abuse of court process, urging the court to dismiss it.

Muyiwa argued that the defendant as journalist and in carrying out his constitutional role as guaranteed under Section 22 and 39 of the Constitution, has a duty to inform the public on issues appealing to them.

He stated that the claimants, being celebrities who impacted on the lives of many people, the public was entitled to know about their social lifestyles.

He denied that the claimants had been defamed by the publication and that they were not entitled to the claim requested for.
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