A Federal High Court in Abuja has on Monday ordered the Nigerian Police Force to pay N50 million to Charles Oputa, PREMIUM has learnt.
According to Mr Oputa’s lawyer, Inihebe Effiong, Justice John Tsoho also asked the police to publish an apology in two national newspapers to his client.
Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, accused the police of invading the Unity Fountain in Abuja on August 8, 2017 to attack him and his group with teargas canister and wild police dogs.
This was during the ‘Resume or Resign’ protest he led with other activists against prolonged absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from Nigeria. The president was then in the UK on medical vacation.
Giving the account of the judgement, Mr Effiong said the court held that protest is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided it is done peacefully.
“The respondents admitted in their counter affidavit that it was in the bid to protect members of the public and public properties from the ‘’miscreants’’ who suddenly took over the protest that the men and officers of the respondents had to use teargas canisters and hot water canon in order to disperse the hoodlums. But that the rRespondents stated that the teargas and water canon were not directed at the applicant.
“This assertion according to the court, lacks substance as teargas circulates and affects all persons within the premises. And the atmosphere generally affected which causes cough.
“The court found that the applicant has disclosed a reasonable cause of action against the respondents and that the respondents violated the fundamental rights of the applicant to dignity of the human person, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association as enshrined in Sections 34, 39, and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended),” he said.
He however said Monday’s judgment sends unequivocal message to the Nigerian police that they have no power to stop or disrupt peaceful protests by Nigerians.
“The police, by this judgment, cannot invent flimsy excuses to stop citizens from exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. I am highly elated by this victory for democracy.”
Also, the secretary of the OurMumuDonDo Movement, Raphael Adebayo, in a statement, said: “The OurMumuDonDo Movement wishes to express satisfaction over the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the unprovoked attack of the police on its members during the ResumeOrResign Protest.
“This development is a sign that the Nigerian judiciary is indeed committed to upholding the supremacy of our country’s Constitution.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the police’ lawyer, O. M. Atoyebi, at the time of filling this report were unsuccessful.