A judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Ijeoma Ojukwu has ordered the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to pay N11 million to 11 Gombe State indigenes that were of illegally detained by the Army.
Mrs Ojukwu, in her judgment, said the detention of the applicants since July 6 was illegal and unconstitutional.
The detainees are James Yusuf, Ishaya Ali Poshiya, Nehemiah Yohanna Poshiya, Husseini Poshiya, Hamma Poshiya, Yusuf Mafindi, Yila Boyi, James Bare, Ezekiel Dandaudu, Ali Ishaku and Ilya Bala.
She added that the detention of the 11 people was a breach of their fundamental rights and ordered their immediate release.
Mrs Ojukwu announced also in her judgement that Mr Buratai should pay detainees N1 million each and maintained that no arresting authority was permitted to arbitrarily detain a person beyond the statutorily prescribed period.
According to the court’s processes, the applicants were arrested by officers of the Nigerian Army on July 6 following the murder of one David Jauro Stephen.
According to the papers, Mr Stephen was attacked on his farm by some unknown assailants from a neighbouring village, Shongom in Gombe State.
However, after the applicants discovered the corps of Mr Stephen on his farm, they tried conveying it home but were in the process caught by the army and arrested.
The arrest was followed by their detention at the Army barracks in the State.
The Judge noted that; “The long detention and torture, without detention order, of the Applicants since July 6, 2018, by servants and agents of the 1st defendant, COAS, is illegal and unconstitutional and is a violation of the applicants’ fundamental rights as enshrined under Sections 34 and 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
“The 1st Respondent shall pay the sum of N11, 000 000 (Eleven Million Naira) only to the applicants (jointly) as damages for the breach of the applicants’ rights under Sections 34 and 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.”
Mrs Ojukwu added that law enforcement officers must obey the rule of law while discharging their duties.
“No circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. “All law enforcement officers must conform to accepted norms and rule of law in the discharge of their statutory duties.’’
The judgement followed a fundamental right enforcement suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/777/2018, which the applicants filed through their lawyer, Mela Audu Nunghe.
The applicants however, according to the papers, anchored their suit on sections 34, 35, 36, 41 and 46 of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
Aside Mr Buratai, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, was equally cited as the 2nd Respondent in the matter.