Pilot Law

Landmark Judgment




SC 218/1988





PHILIP NNAEMEKA-AGU                            –  JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT



ADEMOLA ATOYEBI                                      –  APPELLANT


WILLIAM ODUDU                                               –  RESPONDENT



When this appeal came before us on 9th July, 1990, l allowed the appeal and indicated that the reasons for allowing the appeal would be given today. I now give my reasons.

The appellant who was the plaintiff sued the respondent, the defendant in the High Court of Kwara State, claiming the sum of Seventy Thousand Naira (N70,000.00) as Special and General Damages for “words falsely written and circulated at Ilorin in Kwara State of Nigeria in a Circular dated 15th August, 1979 titled “DISCLAIMER” addressed to all practising Estate Surveyors in Ilorin by the defendant to the discredit of the plaintiff and which circular the defendant meant to and, which does in fact, refers (sic) to the plaintiff, as a result of which the plaintiff has been greatly injured in reputation, and has been brought into public scandal, ridicule and contempt.”

In his Statement of Claim dated 2nd day of January, 1980 and filed on 4th January, 1980 the plaintiff averred as follows:-

  1. That plaintiff is a reputable Chartered Surveyor, Estate Agent and Valuer and was formerly a Senior Estate Surveyor and Valuer with the defendant.
  2. The plaintiff resides at No.17 Yoruba Road, Ilorin.
  3. The defendant is also Chartered Surveyor, Estate Agent and Valuer and the Managing/Senior Partner of Odudu & Co., a firm of Chartered Surveyors carrying on business at 124 Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Ilorin.
  4. The plaintiff was employed by the defendant on 31st August, 1976 and he was with the defendant until 13th August, 1979.
  5. Between 31st August, 1976 and 13th August, 1979, the plaintiff rose from the post of an Assistant Estate Manager to that of a Senior Estate Surveyor, that is from an annual salary of N4,000.00 to that of N 6,500.00, having been promoted five times by the defendant for what the defendant always described as the “plaintiff’s good performance.”
  6. The plaintiff will rely on his promotion letter of 31/8/76, 16/2/77, 24/8/77, 17/7/78 and 25/6/79 at the hearing of this suit.
  7. On 17th March, 1978, the defendant promoted the plaintiff as Associate Member of his Firm. The promotion letter is hereby pleaded.
  8. By a letter dated 13th August, 1979 and signed by the defendant, the defendant terminated the plaintiff’s employment without notice and without giving the plaintiff an opportunity to defend himself on the unsubstantiated charges levelled against him (plaintiff).
  9. By a circular dated 15th August, 1979, signed by the defendant, titled DISCLAIMER and to all Estate Surveyors and some other people in and outside Ilorin, the defendant falsely and maliciously wrote and communicated to the said Surveyors of and concerning the plaintiff and of him in the way of his occupation, the words following. that is to say. “That is to inform you that the appointment of Mr. A.A. Atoyebi, who was in our employment until 13th August. 1979, has been terminated for professional misconduct. (italics ours) Any person transacting business with him on our behalf does so at his or her own risk”. The plaintiff hereby pleads the said circular.
  10. The said words, particularly terminated for proffessiona1 misconduct in their natural and ordinary meaning meant and were understood to mean:-

(a)          That the plaintiff, as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer, was a dishonest and dishonourable person who in the least should not be trusted as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer.

(b)          That the plaintiff is unfit and/or incompetent to be trusted or employed to carry out any work as a Chartered Estate Surveyor.

(c)           That the plaintiff has abused the confidence reposed in him by clients as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer.

(d)          That the plaintiff is a man of dubious character who in the course of his professional calling has grown to be a cheat, a dupe and/or a fraud.

(e)          That the plaintiff was of a dissolute and profligate character.

11           Further or in the alternative, the said words meant and were understood to mean:

(a)          That the plaintiff, in the course of his employment with the defendant, was involved in some dirty deeds and/or deals unbecoming of a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer.

(b)          That the plaintiff has thrown overboard all the rules and/or professional ethics guiding the Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Valuers in Nigeria.

(c)           That ( the plaintiff should be treated with suspicion by both co-professionals and clients since he is not a fit and proper person to be called a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer.

(d)          That an embargo should be placed on the plaintiff from operating or carrying out business as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer in and outside Ilorin since the plaintiff is a disgrace to the profession of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.

(e)          That the plaintiff was unfit to associate with respectable persons.

  1. The plaintiff will at the hearing of this suit rely on the circular addressed to Messrs Opaleye & Co., dated 15th August, 1979 and signed by the defendant.
  2. Furthermore, the plaintiff pleads another memorandum dated 13th August, 1979 signed by the defendant and addressed to one Mr. D.O. Akinola, another Estate Surveyor in the employment of the defendant.
  3. The defendant knew and believed the said words to be false but he only wanted to damage the plaintiffs reputation for some unsubstantiated and flimsy excuses.
  4. The plaintiff will contend at the trial that throughout his 3 – year stay in the employment of the defendant, he was never given any query neither was he found wanting in the discharge of his duties by the defendant.
  5. The said circular, particularly the words terminated for professional misconduct were calculated to and they did disparage the plaintiff in his said profession as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer.
  6. In consequence of the said words, that is, terminated for professiona/ misconduct, the plaintiff has been greatly injured in his credit. character and reputation and in his said profession as a Chartered Estate Surveyor and Valuer and he has been brought into hatred, scandal, ridicule and contempt.
  7. Whereupon the plaintiff claims against the defendant the sum of N70,000.00 being general damages.”

In his Amended Statement of Defence the defendant averred as follows:-



WOLE OLANIPEKUN, ESQ.                            –              FOR THE APPELLANT

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