A Federal High Court in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State has exonerated an alleged car snatcher, Revd Bright Igwe and further awarded the sum of eight million, six hundred thousand naira in his favour against the police as damages and compensation for violation of his fundamental rights.
Igwe was alleged to have snatched a Toyota 4 Runner Jeep allegedly owned by Dennet Archibong.
In a suit No FHC/A1/CS/37/2017, Igwe and Sunday Oddi (1st and 2nd Applicants) sued Archibong (first Respondent); Inspector Anayo from SARS, Abakaliki (second Respondent); the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi state (third Respondent); Inspector Michael Bassey, Zone 6, Calabar (fourth Respondent);
Others joined in the suit are the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar (fifth Respondent); and the Inspector General of Police (sixth Respondent).
The applicants were seeking the enforcement of their Fundamental Rights allegedly violated by the Respondents.
Oddi was said to have stood in for Igwe on administrative bail on October 21, 2016 at the Area Command, Abakaliki over a dispute between the Igwe and one Ejike Obi regarding money Igwe borrowed from him (Obi) to buy a Toyota 4 Runner jeep.
Archibong lodged a complaint to the police against Igwe on December 2, 2016 over the said vehicle. The police were said to have arrested Oddi on April 27, 2017 and was allegedly detained, tortured, humiliated by 2nd and 3rd Respondents for two days before he was released.
Igwe’s Counsel C.R.O. Agha emphasised that when the police arrested and detained her client, there was a pending fundamental right suit involving the same Toyota 4 Runner jeep in which the police was a party and while the matter was still pending, the police was ordered not to arrest Igwe in relation to the said car pending the determination of the substantive suit.
She noted that there was no evidence that the vehicle alleged to have been snatched from Archibong was the same with that of the applicant.
Justine Akintayo Aluko ruled that the harassment, embarrassment, intimidation, arrest and detention of the first and second Applicants made by the second-sixth Respondents upon the instigation of the first Respondent was oppressive, unconstitutional and constitute a gross violation of the first Applicant’s fundamental rights as enshrined in sections 34(1), 35(1), and 41(1) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
Aluko said: “the sum of N5 million only is hereby awarded in favour of the first Applicant against the second-sixth Respondents as damages and compensation for violation of his fundamental rights”.
“The sum of N1 million only is hereby awarded in favour of the first Applicant against the first Respondent as damages and compensation for instigating the police to violate the fundamental rights of the first Applicant.
“The sum of N2 million only is hereby awarded in favour of the second Applicant against the second-third Respondents as damages and compensation for violation of his fundamental rights”.
“The sum of N500, 000 only is hereby awarded in favour of the second Applicant against the first Respondent as damages and compensation for instigating the police to violate the fundamental rights of the second Applicant. The cost of this action, assessed in the sum of N100, 000 only is hereby awarded in favour of the Applicants against the Respondents”.
“The Respondents are hereby ordered to tender written public apology to the Applicants for the unlawful and baseless violation of their fundamental rights”.
The Judge also restrained the Respondents jointly and severally by themselves or agents from further threat, arrest and detention of the Applicants without any reasonable suspicion of any offence committed by the Applicants.