Mr. Diya was held liable for assault and battery of the prosecutor.
Justice Opeyemi Oke of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, on Monday, ordered a former Chief of General Staff, Oladipo Diya, and his company directors to pay N5.5 million for unlawful assault and inflicting injuries to one Oluwatosin Onamade.
The judge also ordered Mr. Diya and the directors at his Lotad Funeral Services to immediately release all the seized property belonging to Mr. Onamade.
The property include a Mercedes Benz 190 model (blue colour), HP laptop DV 6000, wedding ring, Rolex wrist watch, Reltel Nokia mobile phone, 6280 Nokia phone, N76 Nokia phone, two wooden caskets, bags containing N72, 000.00 cash and credentials.
Mr. Diya, the Chief of General Staff during the regime of the late dictator, Sani Abacha, and the others were held liable for assault and battery.
Mr. Onamade, a mortician, would collect an additional N20, 000 from each of the defendants, according to the judge, being the outstanding balance for the preparation of a proposal for the refurbishment of the funeral services company.
In a ruling that lasted over two hours, Ms. Oke described the action of Mr. Diya, a retired Army General, as “condemnable” and an “arbitrary use of power” to inflict injury on the claimant when they attempted to force him to sign a backdated resignation letter on July 31, 2008.
The judge said that the medical report (signed by one Dr. Somoye) tendered before the court showed clearly that Mr. Onamade was assaulted by the defendants. She further said that the allegation of injury against the claimant was strengthened by the medical reports.
“The claimant has alleged that he was assaulted by the defendants. The medical reports dated 14/10/2008 and signed by Dr. Somoye have confirmed the injury to the claimant in forehead and left hand,” said the judge.
“This was also backed up with photographs clearly showing that the claimant was assaulted.
“The defendants took law into their hands and did the work of policemen. This action is condemnable and it is arbitrary use of powers,” Ms. Oke added.
The judge said that though Mr. Diya and his accomplice had alleged misappropriation of funds against the claimant, they could have referred the case to the court for determination rather than resorting to self-help.
“The alleged misappropriation could have been a subject of litigation and not for one to take law into its hand,” the judge said.
Mr. Onamade had instituted the suit in October 2008 against Mr. Diya and the others, accusing them of assault, battery, unlawful seizure of his belongings; and of frustrating the contract he had with them to run the company for a renewable one year period.
Mr. Diya, the chairman of the company, failed to appear throughout the duration of the suit.
One of the directors, Kehinde Diya, a lawyer, was the only witness who testified on behalf of the other defendants – Messrs Dele Obakoya, Emmanuel Ilori, and Dele Oyesanya.
“The first defendant (Mr. Diya) chose not to appear before the court but chose to rely on the testimony of DW1 (Mr. Kehinde) which cannot stand against the evidence adduced by CW1 (Mr. Onamade),” the judge said.
Mr. Diya, in March, was granted a state pardon by President Goodluck Jonathan. He was arrested for alleged treason during the military regime of Sani Abacha, a man under whom he had served as Nigeria’s number two citizen.