An Islamic cleric, Ustadh Qamarudeen Ajala has filed a petition against Abduwasiu Salman Atayese Jaqman for his alleged unguarded utterances in which he alleged that all Alu sunnah were members of Boko Haram sects.
In the said Viral video, Jaqman emphatically stated that all Alu sunnah are members of the terrorist Boko Haram sect. He categorically mentioned some names like Sheikh Qamarudeen Ajala, Sheikh Imran Eleha, Sheikh Gbadebo Raji, Sheikh Qamarudeen Yunus, ustadh Hakeem Alkutubi, Sheikh Fatai Sarumi, Sheikh Abdurazaq Alaro, and said that they were members of Boko Haram sect.
Based on this allegation, Sheikh Qamarudeen Ajala called a press conference to categorically denounce his alleged membership of Boko Haram or any terrorist group whatsoever. Sheikh informed the members of the public that he had caused a petition to be submitted to DSS on behalf of himself and those personalities alleged in the viral video.
Sheikh alleged that “This kind of allegation is so weighty that unless the asserter is able to prove with concrete evidence he is not only liable in civil matter but also liable under criminal defamation as contemplated by Sections 373, 374 and 375 of Criminal Code and Section 391, 392, 393 of Penal Code
He further alleged that “Any written or printed article published of and concerning a person without lawful justification or excuse and tending to expose him to public contempt, scorn, obloquy, ridicule, shame or disgrace, or intending to induce an evil opinion of him, in the mind of right thinking persons, or injure him in his profession, occupation or trade is libelous and actionable, whatever the intention of the writer may have been. The word need not necessarily impute actual disgraceful conduct to the plaintiff; it is sufficient if they rendered him contemptible and ridiculous.
He stressed further that though tortious defamation is the more common and more widely discussed, defamation is a dual-nature offence and it can be a civil wrong and as well a criminal act.
In its civil form, defamation seeks to protect untainted reputation and good name of individuals. It is therefore a wrongful act in the eyes of the law for a man to directly impress in the mind of another person a matter that is not only untrue but is likely in the ordinary and natural course of things to substantially injure the reputation of a third party.
“This kind of unfounded and false statement made against another person is what is called defamation and in tort may attract the award of damages in favour of the person wronged,” said a legal luminary.
However, defamation can also be a criminal wrong for which an offender can be charged, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. And this form of defamation is the aim of this write-up.
In criminal defamation, the law seeks to prevent a situation in which defamation assumes a tendency to arouse angry passion, provoke revenge and set the society ablaze in a way that public peace is endangered.
By nature of the allegations in the viral audio made by jaqmam, it can arouse angry passion; incite people against the personalities mentioned in the video and therefore jeopardize their security; set one group against the other; and lead to break down of law and order
The video is aimed at generating general reaction against alu sunnah and mentioned personalities, therefore, it is a publication in permanent form and therefore qualifies as criminal Liability as contemplated by the sections of Criminal code and penal Code Mentioned above.
Publication is important in defamation, whether tortious or criminal. Section 374 of the Criminal Code Law defines the publication of a defamatory matter as being:
“a) in the case of spoken words or credible sounds, the speaking of such words or the making of such sounds in the hearing of the person defamed or nay other person;
“b) in other cases, the exhibiting it in public, or causing it to be read or seen, or showing or delivering it, or causing it to be shown or delivered, with intent that it may be read or seen by the person defamed or by any other person”.
The above definition of instances of publication in the crime of defamation shows a clear difference in the conception of publication in the tort of defamation. Whereas in tort the false publication must be to a third party before it is taken as defamatory, in the crime of defamation, however, publication to the person defamed alone is enough.
Criminl Defamation Versus Tortious Defamation
Criminal defamation may be a criminal offence as well as a civil wrong because of its tendency to provoke a breach of the peace.
An indictment will lie
(1) where the libel tends to provoke the person defamed to commit a breach of the peace; or
(2) where it is in the public interest that criminal proceedings should be brought. Hence, publication to the person defamed may support a criminal prosecution but not a civil action.
PROOF TO ESTABLISH THIS ALLEGATION
It is elementary in law that it is he who asserts that will establish the veracity of his assertion, therefore, jaqman must be ready to support his claims with evidence, hence there are penalties in law for this kind of insinuation if found to be false.