In a recent ruling, the Accra High Court has dismissed an GH¢800,000 lawsuit against The Herald newspaper, its publishers Prime Mark Company Limited, and two individuals, filed by Nuhu Jansbaka, a former Director of Finance at Intercity STC Coaches Limited. The lawsuit had been ongoing for nearly seven years.
Justice Audrey Kocuvie-Tay, delivering the judgement, rejected claims of “malice” on the part of The Herald’s Managing Editor and Prime Mark Company Limited. She also urged public officials in positions of trust to expect heightened scrutiny and to be held to stricter standards.
During his tenure as Head of Finance and Administration at STC Coaches Limited between 2012 and 2013, Mr. Jansbaka faced severe criticism from colleagues. Petitions and demonstrations were held, demanding his removal over allegations of conflict of interest.
The accusations against Mr. Jansbaka included profiting from workers’ provident funds by paying himself an amount of GH¢13,019.67 for a task he was obligated to perform as Director of Finance and Administration. He failed to carry out the responsibility and convinced some employees to pay him instead, using the funds he had access to. These actions caused significant discontent among the workforce.
Following the unrest, Mr. Jansbaka was subjected to an interdiction and faced investigations by a committee of inquiry and a disciplinary committee. Both committees levied adverse findings, comments, and recommendations against the former Director of Finance, including the requirement to refund the misappropriated funds. It was also revealed that he had received excessive travel allowances and unauthorized extra duty payments.
Despite these findings, Mr. Jansbaka was later reinstated at the company, assigned to head its northern sector, which sparked further protests from the employees. However, he did not repay the funds as directed by the committees.
In 2017, after a change in management at STC Coaches Limited, Mr. Jansbaka resigned from his position as Director of Finance and Administration and initiated legal action against The Herald’s Managing Editor, its publishers, and two union leaders, Samuel Korle Clotey and Hope Kofi Klu. He claimed that the newspaper had been hired to tarnish his reputation and sought GH¢200,000 each for defamation.
In her ruling, Justice Kocuvie-Tay stated that Mr. Jansbaka failed to establish a connection between Mr. Korle Clotey, Mr. Klu, Larry Dogbey, and Prime Mark Ghana Limited, regarding the publication of the allegedly defamatory statements. The judge emphasized that mere repetition of allegations in the witness box was insufficient to prove complicity and that supporting evidence was necessary.
The judge also noted that the letter written by Mr. Korle Clotey and Mr. Klu to the Institute of Chartered Accountants – Ghana (ICAG), requesting an investigation into Mr. Jansbaka’s conduct as a member, did not demonstrate culpability on the part of the union leaders.
Although the use of the term “chop chop” in The Herald’s publications regarding Mr. Jansbaka may have been harsh, Justice Kocuvie-Tay cited the principle of fair comment and emphasized that public officers should be subject to rigorous scrutiny. She concluded that the statements made by the third and fourth defendants constituted fair comment without malice.
In the end, Justice Kocuvie-Tay dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety, stating that the burden of proof had not been met by Mr. Jansbaka. The court found that the third and fourth defendants had valid defenses to the defamation action.