Dr Daniel and Mrs Olukoya have brought proceedings against Maureen Badejo alleging defamation. Ms Badejo filed a Defence alleging the allegations she had published were true, and at a hearing in the High Court on 13 April 2021 at which all parties were represented by counsel, Master Thornett struck out Ms Badejo’s Defence as an abuse of process and as having no real prospect of succeeding. He gave summary judgment for Dr and Mrs Olukoya and granted an injunction against Ms Badejo. In giving his judgment Master Thornett found that the defamation complained of included searing allegations of dishonesty and sexual misconduct and he found that this had caused serious harm to the reputations of Dr and Mrs Olukoya.
Dr and Mrs Olukoya now apply to have determined the issue of damages and orders under sections 12 and 13 of the Defamation Act 2013. They had also issued an application for contempt of court against Ms Badejo, but have discontinued that application.
Ms Badejo applied for an adjournment of the hearing to determine damages and other remedies, and the court ruled against her application, deciding that the hearing should go ahead and that Ms Badejo had had enough time to prepare for it.
In relation to damages, Dr and Mrs Olukoya relied upon their witness statements served in the proceedings so far, and Ms Badejo relied upon evidence of her own. Ms Badejo argued that much of what she had published was in the public domain already, including through a UK Charity Commission Order with reasons from 2019, and a decision of a court in Maryland, USA dated 24 June 2021. She also said that she had appealed Master Thornett’s order, and she said that what she had published was true. Those arguments were rejected. Ms Badejo’s appeal has been struck out, the Maryland judgment post-dates the publications in the claim, the Charity Commission document does not more than documents some concerns about the running of MFM, and Master Thornett has already determined Ms Badejo’s plea of truth against her.
The background to the claim is as follows. Dr Olukoya is a Nigerian microbiologist and pastoral leader. He studied in the UK at the University of Reading between 1981 and 1983 and has retained strong links here since. Dr Olukoya met and married in 1989 his wife Folashade in London, and their son, Elijah was born here in 2004. W Dr Olukoya is based in Lagos, Folashade and Elijah have lived mostly in London, with the family travelling regularly between London and Lagos to spend time with each other.
Dr Olukoya is also the founder and works as the, “General Overseer” (often referred to by the acronym “GO”) of an international collection of Pentecostal ministries under the umbrella of the “Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries” (“MFM”). This church which is headquartered in Lagos in Nigeria, has branches throughout the world, and around 5 million followers. One such branch is in the UK (MFM UK, formerly the First Claimant), and Dr Olukoya is closely associated with it. Mrs Folashade Olukoya is, as mentioned above, Dr Olukoya’s wife, and a UK resident. She is a pastor in her own right, as well as an academic.
Ms Badejo is not known to Dr or Mrs Olukoya save in relation to her campaign against them. Since 20 August 2020 Ms Badejo has pursued a relentless campaign of harassment by publication against the Olukoyas (as well as against MFM). Working under the branding, “Gio TV” (and variations thereof) Ms Badejo has broadcast, and then made available for subsequent download very lengthy monologues and phone ins in which she and others encouraged by her make incredibly serious and upsetting allegations about the Olukoyas and the Church.
The statements complained of are annexed to the Particulars of Claim. The combined views of those statements as at the date of the Particulars of Claim was around 700,000. The imputations in the publications include allegations of physical abuse, manipulation, fraud, sexual misconduct and an allegation that Mrs Olukoya is not in fact the mother of their son. On any view these are grave and serious imputations.
From the evidence before the court it is clear that both Dr and Mrs Olukoyaa have been distressed by Ms Badejo’s conduct towards them. Neither has met Ms Badejo and they are at a loss to understand her motivation.
The defamatory statements published by Ms Badejo are plainly grave and they are wide-ranging and numerous, although the defamation of Mrs Olukoya is not so extensive as that of Dr Olukoya. A relevant factor in assessing damages is that Ms Badejo is not a well-known or especially credible source.
Taking into account all of the factors, the appropriate awards of damages are £65,000 to Dr Olukoya and £35,000 to Mrs Olukoya.
The Olukoyas did not pursue their claim to an order under section 13 of the Defamation Act 2013, but they did ask for an order under section 12 of that Act, requiring Ms Badejo to publish a summary of the judgment through her social media accounts. The judge made that order.
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