Service Pass Off: Wema Bank To Pay US Based Model N10m, Court Rules

A Federal High Court, has ordered Wema Bank Plc, to pay the sum of N10 million, to a 22 year-old Nigerian Model based in United State of America, Miss Nneoma Anosike, for using her picture to market its product, without her knowledge.

The court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba, also ordered Wema bank to write a letter of apology to the US-based Model, and publish the said written apology letter in two national daily newspapers in United State of America (USA) and Nigeria.

Furthermore, the court also made an order of injunction restraining Wema Bank from passing off or causing and or enabling others to pass off the international model’s professional services. And a declaration that the model is entitled to her privacy and the privacy of her correspondence, under Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.

The court orders was sequel to a suit filed by the Model’s father, Frank Anosike, through his lawyer, Gideon Okebu, against Wema Bank.

Okebu in his spirited effort in the final written address to support the claims of his client, had urged the court to direct Wema Bank to pay her the sum of N75 million, for passing off on her services.

The lawyer also prayed for an order of the court directing Wema Bank to pay her the sum of N20 million, for breaching her privacy by advertising her private correspondence. And the sum of N20 million, for special cost of instituting the suit.

During the trial of the suit, the father of the model, Frank Anosike gave his evidence and tendered nine exhibits which were admitted by the court. While the bank also testified through one Bryan Igbenidion, but tendered no document as exhibit.

The plaintiff, Anosike sued the bank through her lawful attorney, Frank Anosike who is also her father, and alleged that on April 11, 2016, the defendant used her picture for commercial purpose on a social network, called ‘Instagram’ without her consent or authorisation from the management of Ford Models Inc, a company in USA which she had agreement to manage her career as a model.

According to the statement of claims attached to the suit, the plaintiff claimed that she is reputable and international model who had won many laurels within and outside the country, she averred that among the competitions she won in Nigeria was ‘Elite Model Look’, 2013.

She added that based on her reputation, in 2014, Pepsi-Cola Nigeria made her its brand ambassador for Aquafina Water.

The plaintiff averred that her contract with Ford Models Inc, the company that took her to USA, is for period of three years and prior to the advert of the defendant which used her as their model, the American company was already negotiating with her on how renew the contract.

On April 11, 2016 , the management of Ford Models summoned her to a meeting on April 12, 2016 and in the meeting she was presented with her photographic advert procured from account of the defendant on Instagram. She alleged that the defendant mutilated and photo edited her professional photograph for the said advert and advertised it on the World Wide Web,
And based on the action of the the bank, the defendant had breach the contractual agreement between her and the American company, alleged that the bank had jeopardized her chance of contract extension with Ford Models Inc.

However, the defendant in its Statement of Defence, averred that the bank was neither a party nor privy to any of the alleged modelling contract of the plaintiff with any third party.
The defendant averred that the picture in question, was on social media before it was sourced for it online weekly motivational and educational series via social media, intended purely to inspire young online users.

The bank had denied using the plaintiff’s picture for any advertisement purposes or for any commercial gain but purely for free educational purpose under its Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

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