Activist and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, has filed two rights enforcement suits against the police at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr Sowore, through his lawyer, Tope Temokun, sued for N50 million damages and asked for public apology from the police in each of the suits.
He demands the total N100 million damages as compensation for various alleged violations of his rights at different times in Abuja last year.
In one of the suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1238/2021, Mr Sowore alleged that he was shot at by a chief superintendent of police, Altine Daniel, during a peaceful rally at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, on May 31, 2021.
Mr Sowore, in the second suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1239/2021, is seeking a redress for being illegally arrested, harassed, brutalised, and subjected to degrading treatments, around the Federal High Court in Abuja on July 26, 2021.
Apart from manhandling him, Mr Sowore said the police prevented him from witnessing and reporting the day’s court proceedings in cases involving the leader of the proscribed leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and five youth activists who were earlier arrested on July 4, 2021 by the State Security Service (SSS).
The five youths were arrested at Dunamis International Gospel Centre by the SSS for wearing T-shirts with ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ inscription to the church.
‘How my rights were violated’
Mr Sowore narrated how his rights were allegedly violated in the separate supporting affidavits he filed along with the suits.
He said he was shot at by Ms Daniel, during “a sensitisation rally” on May 31, 2021 at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, preparatory to last year’s June 12 anniversary.
Mr Sowore recalled that there had been previous encounters with Ms Daniel when she allegedly threatened to kill him on different occasions prior to the day of the rally.
The activist said on his arrival at the rally ground to exercise his constitutional rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, police officers besieged the venue to prevent the gathering and stop him from addressing the demonstrators.
Amid the police invasion, Mr Sowore said, Ms Daniel shot at him “at close range with a federal riot gun with a projectile”.
“That the shot tore my thigh and I lost my balance and fell and was carried by courageous citizens at the scene to the hospital,” Mr Sowore said, as he made refences to snapshots filed as exhibits showing him at the scene after the alleged shooting.
He sued the Nigeria Police Force, the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in the FCT, and Ms Daniel as defendants in the suit.
In the other case, Mr Sowore stated that his right was violated by the police at the Federal High Court in Abuja on July 26, 2021.
Mr Sowore said he had visited the court to witness the proceedings in the case of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and that of five Nigerian youths who were arrested for wearing T-shirts with ‘Buhari Must Go’ inscriptions.
He said he was denied access and arrested at the court gate.
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“I was taken forcefully to be detained at the Federal Secretariat Police Station, Abuja, by police officers in furtherance of the instructions and purpose to deny me access into the court that day, even while some other citizens and journalists were granted free access into the court,” Mr Sowore stated.
He added that he was brutalised, subjected to beatings, humiliated and was eventually bundled into a police vehicle in violation of his rights.
He sued the Nigeria Police Force, the IGP, and the FCT police commissioner, as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as the defendants in the suit.
In the first case, the plaintiff sought among other prayers, the court’s declaration that “the firing of the gun shot” at him allegedly by Ms Daniel at Unity Fountain, Abuja on May 31, 2021, constitutes a violation of his right to dignity of human person, right to freedom of expression and the press, right to peaceful assembly and association.
He cited various provisions of the Nigerian constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act protecting his allegedly violated rights.
In the other suit, he similarly urged the court to declare that his arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment, brutalisation, seizure of his reporting device on July 26, 2021 at the Federal High Court in Abuja constitutes a breach of his various constitutional rights.
He maintained that the various acts of the police officers acting under the police authorities violated his constitutional rights to personal liberty, dignity of person, freedom of expression and the press, as well as his right to freedom from discrimination.
In the two suits, he sought an order directing the police authorities to apologise to him via a publication “in two reputable national daily newspapers”.
He also urged the court to award him N50 million “as general and exemplary damages” and make an order prohibiting a further violation of his rights by either the defendants or their agents, in the two suits.
The defendants have yet to file their defence, although Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Mr Temokun, announced that the cases have been assigned to a judge, Inyang Ekwo.
Mr Sowore was arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) in August 2019 after calling for a Revolution Now protest against bad governance, corruption and worsening insecurity in the country under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.
Despite his ongoing trial on charges of reasonable felony filed against him in the aftermath of his arrest, Mr Sowore continues to lead or participate in protests against the Buhari administration.
But in the last two years, Mr Sowore had on numerous occasions, raised the alarm over repeated coordinated attacks on him by alleged hired thugs during protests and appearances in court.
He recently raised the alarm over the deactivation of his National Identification Number (NIN) by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
He issued a seven-day ultimatum to the agency to restore his NIN within seven days or face a legal action.
He announced on Monday that his NIN had been restored following his threat to sue NIMC.
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