Defamation as Tort and Crime in Nigeria- Legal Review

Publication Information

Journal Title: International Journal Of Legal Developments And Allied Issues
Author(s): IkeChukwu Unegbe
Published On: 27/05/2023
Volume: 9
Issue: 3
First Page: 44
Last Page: 61
ISSN: 2454-1273
Publisher: The Law Brigade Publisher

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IkeChukwu Unegbe, Defamation as Tort and Crime in Nigeria- Legal Review, Volume 9 Issue 3, International Journal Of Legal Developments And Allied Issues, 44-61, Published on 27/05/2023, Available at


The 1999 Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  Freedom of expression has, however, been curtailed, among others, by the law of defamation. Defamation applies to the situation when words spoken or written, and made public, damage the reputation, good will, name and standing of another individual before right thinking members of the public. Defamation has been given both civil and criminal applications under Nigerian jurisprudence, creating questions in the minds of the populace as to the rationale. It is argued that criminalizing defamation would lead to undue abuses in using the law enforcement agencies to harass and prosecute fellow citizens for exercising their rights to freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution, and the breach of which ought to lead to a civil law suit with adequate compensation extracted under the law; instead of being escalated to criminal prosecution which attracts severe penalties, including death.  This paper sets out to review the state of the law of tort of defamation in Nigeria, the apparent conflicts between engaging civil and criminal laws proceedings in pursuing a wrong done under the tort of defamation. Existing laws, practices, legal thoughts and court judgments would be examined and recommendations proffered with a view of contributing towards streamlining the legal jurisprudence in this area of law.

Keywords: Defamation, Civil law, Criminal law, Constitution, Nigeria police, Prosecution.

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