A State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Thursday ordered a member of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly to pay a 20-year-old Nigerian citizen N1.5 million over illegal arrest and detention.
The judge, Edem Akpan, also directed the lawmaker, Uduak Odudoh, who represents Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo State Constituency, to publish a public apology to the man in a national and a local newspaper over his rights violation.
The man, Promise Etete, in 2021, filed a case against Mr Odudoh, asking the court to compel the lawmaker to apologise to him publicly, as well as pay him N100 million as compensation for ordering the police to arrest and detain him illegally.
A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, handled the case on behalf of Mr Etete.
The police arrested Mr Etete in 2020, detained and later charged with threat to life and defamation of character after he posted an article on Facebook against the lawmaker.
Mr Etete said in the Facebook article the lawmaker was acting as though he was representing a faction, and not the whole of his constituency.
He accused Mr Odudoh of poor representation and said the constituency has remained “underdeveloped” because of “scam leaders”.
Mr Etete was first arraigned before a Magistrate Court in the state but the charges were struck out in December 2020 after the lawmaker failed to appear when the case came up for hearing,” Mr Effiong said.
Justice Akpan, in his judgment, described as “ill-motivated” the petition written to the police by Mr Ududoh.
The judge said the allegations of threat to life and cultism in the said petition were baseless.
The court held that the posts made by Mr Etete were fair comments and that as a citizen he has the right to complain about issues in his constituency that he is aggrieved about, and that the lawmaker has a duty to respect such criticisms.
READ ALSO: Katsina governor demands N10bn from NUJ for alleged defamation
The court further held that Mr Ududoh violated Mr Etete’s right to freedom of expression, dignity, and personal liberty.
The lawyer, Mr Effiong told PREMIUM TIMES that the court verdict was a strong rebuke to the lawmaker and other political office holders in the country who feel that they can use their influence to subjugate citizens for criticising their “misdeeds”.
“We are telling them again today that oppressive and reckless deployment of law enforcement agencies to attack innocent citizens for voicing concerns over the poor state of our country will never be tolerated,” he said.
Enoch Enoch, counsel to Mr Odudoh, declined comments when contacted.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999