The federal High court in Abuja yesterday ordered the Nigerian Police force to pay a fine of N12.5m compensation to officials of the Peace Corps of Nigeria for their unlawful arrest and detention on February 28 this year.
The court also ordered police to immediately unseal the corporate headquarters of the Peace Corps in Abuja sealed since February 28, 2017 when police invaded the premises during its official commissioning.
Delivery judgment in a fundamental human rights suit instituted against police and others, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that Police and the other security agents involved in the invasion of Peace Corps house were reckless in their action and acted outside their statutory powers.
In the judgment that lasted for about two hours, Justice Kolawole held that the police who acted as real antagonists to the existence of the Peace Corps have no business to have acted the way and manner they carried out the arrest and detention of the Peace Corps men and for also barricading their office ten months ago.
The judge agreed that the police and other security agents have statutory powers to make arrest and detention but however said that such powers must be exercised with decency, decorum and in compliance with relevant laws that protect the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizenry.
In the instant case, Justice Kolawole held that the respondents failed to establish that the peace Corps officials were committing crime or have committed crimes when they swooped on them and clamped them into detention in a day they were commissioning their corporate head office.
Specifically, the Judge said that the allegation by police and others that the peace Corps was engaging in military and paramilitary training for its officers and men was not established to justify their unlawful action.
Justice Kolawole said that the allegation of extortion of money from innocent Nigerians and a threat to national security brought against the arrested and detained Peace Corps officials was not proved with any petition or any document from the purported victims of the Corps.
He also faulted the claim by police that they acted on an intelligence report to invade the Peace Corps house was amorphous as there was nothing placed before the court to establish the claim.
The judge further held that during the searches carried out on the Peace Corps house by the security agents, nothing incriminating was found in the house thereby establishing the fact that the police acted in bad fate in their action against the Peace Corps.
Justice Kolawole also agreed with Chief Kanu Agabi, counsel to the plaintiffs that under the law, the plaintiffs are entitled to own moveable and unlovable properties and that under no circumstances should any security agent deny them the right to own properties as they did in their action of February 28.
“It is a fact that police have proved themselves to be a major antagonist to the existence of Peace Corps of Nigeria with its claim that Section 214 of the 1999 constitution makes provision for only one Nigeria Police Force and that by that claim, it is beyond doubt that police now see peace Corps as opponent that must be pulled out of existence.
Justice Kolawole therefore ordered the police to pay the sum of N12.5m to the unlawfully detained peace Corps officials so as to assuage the harassment and intimidate suffered during the arrest.
He also ordered that the Peace Corps house sealed since February 28 be unsealed immediate and that no attempt must be made to frustrate officials of the corps from accessing the building to carry out their legitimate duties as a registered organization.
The Incorporated Trustees of the Peace Corps had in March 2017 instituted the court action against the police, Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, State Security Service, SSS, Director General SSS, and the Attorney General of the Federation demanding for a whopping sum of N2b as compensation for its officials who were badly injured during the invasion of the Peace Corps house and for the fundamental rights to personal liberty of the officials that were violated in the arrest and detention without a valid court order.
The plaintiffs including the national commandant of the corps Ambassador Dickson Akoh had in the suit prayed the court to compel the security agents to vacate their national secretariat.
But the respondents claimed that they sealed off the Peace Corps house because it was been used to commit crime and engaging his men in training and paramilitary training.