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Taxi driver to sue 'Prime Time' after losing 25 licences

A TAXI driver featured in RTE's 'Prime Time Investigates' programme is to sue the national broadcaster for defamation.

It comes after Oluwaseyi Okerayi's successful legal challenge against a decision by the National Transport Authority to suspended his PSV licences.

For several years Mr Okerayi operated a business by hiring out both taxi plates and cars.

Last May the NTA suspended "with immediate effect" the 25 public service licences he held after the 'Prime Time' programme aired.

The programme alleged he rented out cars that were unroadworthy to individuals who did not have licences.

Mr Okerayi, who denied any wrongdoing, brought a High Court action aimed at quashing the NTA's decision.

Mr Okerayi's lawyers argued the suspension of his licences was "a kneejerk response to a sensationalist and inaccurate TV programme carried out without proper investigation".

There was no legal basis to continue the suspension, it was further argued.

Last month Mr Okerayi secured a High Court order quashing the decision. The NTA did not contest the action.

Following that decision the businessman intends to bring a defamation action against the RTE.

His solicitor Peter Connolly confirmed he had instructions to start proceedings for defamation against RTE and a formal warning letter had been sent.

Last July barrister Micheal O Higgins SC for Mr Okerayi secured leave from the High Court to challenge the NTA's decision.

Mr O Higgins said the PSV licences were suspended on May 18 last before any of their client's vehicles were inspected.

No reasons were given to Mr Okerayi, of Fitzherbert Court, Slane Road, Navan, Co Meath, for the suspension.

Despite Mr Okerayi's compliance with all of the NTA's requests, Mr O Higgins said efforts to have the suspension lifted were refused.

"The NTA's decision was unfounded, unlawful, unfair, disproportionate, and that his rights have been violated. Mr Okerayi had been left without a livelihood," counsel added.

In an affidavit Mr Okerayi, a married father-of-two who moved to Ireland from Nigeria in 2002, said he was "shocked when he saw the contents of the programme" as the broadcast "had deliberately misrepresented certain facts".

He said he carried out the legitimate and perfectly lawful business and always checked out and took photocopies of drivers' documentation before renting out a taxi.

He always repaired any defects in the cars once they were brought to his attention.

Shortly after the programme was aired representatives from the NTA seized documents from his home and he was informed that his licences were being suspended pending investigation.

He also rejected any suggestion in the programme that his cars passed their NCT tests due to impropriety on his part.

Irish Independent