Ifeanyi Uba will be compensated by Nigeria’s police force for unlawful detention.
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday awarded N10 million damages to Ifeanyi Uba, Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Ltd., in his suit against the Inspector General of Police, IG.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the police, either acting by themselves or their privies, from harassing, detaining or infringing on the fundamental rights of the applicant.
Mr. Ubah had filed the suit on January 10 through his counsel, Ajibola Oluyede, against the IG and three others for alleged infringement on his fundamental human rights.
Joined in the suit are the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit, SFU, Ayotunde Ogunsakin; the Managing Director of Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; and the Managing Director, Coscharis Motors, Cosmas Maduka.
Mr. Ubah had filed the application seeking an order to set aside an interim report issued by the Commissioner of Police, SFU, dated November 2, 2012.
The applicant in his originating motion said that the interim report that indicted him of money laundering and criminal conspiracy was a prosecutorial misconduct.
He also affirmed that another report by the SFU dated November 3, 2012, in which a case of stealing and economic sabotage was levelled against him, amounted to a breach of his fundamental right.
The SFU in a 23-page report indicted Mr. Ubah of obtaining N43.291 billion for a supposed importation of 538.74 million liters of fuel, through fabrication and forgery of documents.
Mr. Ubah had also sought a declaration by the court that the complaint by the Presidential Committee on Verification of Oil Subsidy Payment to oil marketers was tainted by malice.
The applicant had asked for N10 billion compensatory damages from all respondents, jointly and severally, for the injury suffered as a result of his detention for 10 days at the SFU office at Ikoyi, Lagos.
At the last adjourned date, Godwin Obla, counsel to the IG, had raised a preliminary objection to the application, contending that Mr. Uba could not prevent the police from discharging their statutory duties.
Mr. Obla also contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter since judgment had been given against the applicant in a similar suit heard by another judge of the Federal High Court.
He, therefore, argued that the applicant should be stopped from bringing the application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
According to him, the application constituted an abuse of court process.
Counsel to Access Bank, Paul Usoro, had also raised a preliminary objection to the suit, alleging lack of service of court processes on Access Bank.
Mr. Usoro argued that none of the court processes were served on Access Bank, and so, the court cannot assume jurisdiction over a party that was not properly constituted before it.
Counsel to Coscharis Motors, Osita Mbamalu, aligned himself with the argument and also objected to the suit on the grounds that they too had not been served with processes in the suit.
He contended that this robbed the court of the requisite jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Aneke said the court was not estopped in any form whatsoever, from hearing the plaintiff’s application.
The judge said that although a similar case may have been adjudicated upon before a brother judge in the same court, the substance and ingredient of both suits were entirely different.
“The doctrine of estoppel only operates where the parties are privies.
“The suit referred to by the respondent which came up before my learned brother Justice Okon Abang, has no bearing with the current suit.
“The facts, substance and ingredients of both suits are completely different, I therefore hold that the judgment of Abang does not constitute estopped to this suit,” Mr. Aneke ruled.
On the issue that the police could not be restrained from discharging their duties, Mr. Aneke held that the provisions of Section 4 of the Police Act, is subject to overriding statutory provisions of the constitution.
He held that the court had a duty to regulate public officers in the discharge of their duties, especially where it is not done in accordance with the law, and where the personal liberties of individuals are at stake.
Mr. Aneke said that the police must ensure that their duties are carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience and in line with laid down provisions of law.
He, therefore, held that it was the duty of the court to regulate the conduct of public officers in the dispensation of their duties.
On the issue of non service as contended by counsel to Access Bank and Coscharis Motors, the judge held that a proof of service of court process is an overwhelming evidence of service.
He held that the proof of the service of the court processes on the two respondents were clearly exhibited in the court’s file.
He, therefore, held that the proof of service, points to the fact that all respondents were duly served, contrary to their claim.
“The proof of service in the court’s file is a testimony to the service of processes on the respondents, and it stands unchallenged,” he said.
He, therefore, held that the respondents were duly served with all court processes.
“It is my humble but firm view that this suit as instituted by the applicant is competent.
“By the provisions of Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the applicant’s suit and his ancillary reliefs sought is hereby sustained.
“The preliminary objection of respondents has no basis and is devoid of merit. The objection hereby fails and is accordingly dismissed.
“An order of perpetual injunction is therefore made restraining the respondents either by themselves or their privies, from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing the applicant in any form whatsoever.
“The sum of N10 million is also awarded as damages against the respondents, jointly and severally, for infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant,” Mr. Aneke added.