A Lagos Federal High Court at the weekend awarded N1 million damages against the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for breaching the rights of six men.
Justice (Professor) Chuka Obiozor, awarded the sum against the police in his verdict in fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the men against the police.
The six men are Mr. Lutumbe Isiaku, Mr. Jolly Richard, Mr. Aaron Avabasa, Mr. Loniba Maijela and Mr. David Williams, who were applicants in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/473/16, filed before the court by their lawyer, Damien M. Anyama.
The men, who are members of United Methodist Church in Nigeria, 12, Raliatu Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, had filed the suit against the presiding Pastor of the church, Pastor Andrew Barkuma, Bishop John Yohanna Wesley, Registered Trustees of United Methodist Church In Nigeria (UMCN), as first to third defendants.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Area Commander of Area ‘F’ Command, Divisional Police Officer, Makinde Police Division, and one Mr. Stanley, an Investigation Police Officer (IPO), Makinde police Station, Oshodi, were joined as first to seven defendants in the suit.
The applicants had prayed the court for a declaration that the invasion of their church premises on September 4, 2015, by the police and subsequent repelling, arrest, torture, humiliation, parading and their detention as members of dreaded Boko Haram Sect, is arbitrary, unlawful, gross abuse of their fundamental rights of liberty and dignity of human persons.
They also asked the court for a declaration that the use of the police to arrest, detain, terrorise, assault, torture, humiliate, harass, and their subdue as members of dreaded Boko Haram sect, at the instance of first to third defendants in order to forcibly remove or eject them from the church premises is arbitrary, unlawful, and violation of their rights as enshrined under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
They further prayed the court for an order for a payment of N200 million by the first to third defendants for labelling them as members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect seeking refuge in the church of which information was false in entirety, and apology which should be published in three daily Nigeria newspapers.
The first to third respondents filed a preliminary objection and counter-affidavit in opposition to the applicants’ suit, and the court to dismiss their application with substantial cost.
The fourth to seventh respondents (the police) did not file any process before the court.
In his verdict, Justice (Professor) Obiozor, while dismissing the applicants’ suit against the first to third respondents posited that for the fourth to seventh respondents not to have filed any counter to the applicants’ suit was an admittance that they committed the act against the applicants.
He awarded N1 million damages against the police in favour of the applicants jointly and severally.
He said, “I hold that the four to seven respondents denied the applicants of their right to human dignity, for releasing tear gas on them, chaining their hands together and causing the applicants to squirt under the rain at the full glare of the public at the police station; this is not acceptable and it is a breach of Section 34 of 1999 Constitution. For this, the applicants are entitled to compensation from the police.
“Consequently, I award damages in favour of all applicants against the police jointly and severely in the sum of N1 million.”