A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday ordered the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and three others to pay N40 million as damages to the president of Chocolate City Group, Audu Maikori.
Justice John Tsoho awarded the costs as compensation for what he ruled as Mr. Maikori’s unlawful arrest and detention between February 17 and 18, and between March 10 and 13.
The judge was delivering judgement in the fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by Mr. Maikori on May 5.
Other respondents in Mr. Maikori’s suit are the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna state, and the state’s Attorney-General.
The court also ordered the respondents to “pay jointly and severally, as general damages, the sum of N10 million only for injury to character, self-reputation, business reputation, esteem, proper feeling of pride of the applicant, his staff, management and the applicant’s other international business concerns”.
Aside from that, Justice Tsoho also directed the respondents to pay damages in the sum of N20 million only for injury to health, for medical bills being incurred by the applicant in treating himself and for psychological damage done on the applicant.
He further awarded N1,430 as cost of the suit, as well as, 10% interest per annum on damages until total and final liquidation of same.
He, however, noted that his verdict does not preclude the ongoing trial of Mr. Maikori in Kaduna, adding that the police could justifiably arrest suspects for allegedly breaking the law in the cyberspace.
The judge however noted that following the tweet, Mr. Maikori made himself liable to be arrested even though he realised that he was misinformed by his driver.
He said, “I hold the respectful view that by virtue of his act, the applicant made himself liable to be deprived of his personal liberty”.
Justice Tsoho further stressed that an arrest made by the police upon reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime is lawful. He said the judgment went in favour of the applicant in view of the fact that the police, in carrying out its duty, violated Mr. Maikori’s fundamental rights.
“This judgement is without prejudice to offences that the applicant is standing trial for. The judgement will serve as a lesson to law enforcement agencies, they should discharge their duties in accordance with constitutional requirements, and not discharging their duties with impunity,” he held.
Justice Tsoho also said though citizen have a right under the constitution to express themselves, he said such rights should not be abused through the social media.
He also observed that it was for the purpose of control and regulation of the social media that the Federal Government enacted the Cyber Crime Act.
Mr. Maikori, 41, was first arrested in Lagos on February 17 after a petition was filed by the Kaduna State Government over a story he published on his social media pages that turned out to be false.
The story had to do with the purported killing of five College of Education students in Southern Kaduna.
The label boss later apologised for posting the story, adding that his driver relayed it to him, and said his (driver) brother was among the victims.
He was subsequently transferred to Force Headquarters in Abuja for interrogations. He was eventually released on bail and cleared of any complicity by the Police Force Headquarters.
He was then rearrested and taken to Kaduna where he was detained for four days before he was charged to court. He was granted bail on health grounds.
In May, Mr. Maikori had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/385/17, prayed the court to award N21billion to him as damages. He challenged his arrest and detention by the police over a message he passed through his Twitter handle.