By Uko Etim, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo has ordered the Inspector General of Police and five others to pay a housewife in Uyo, Peace Ekom Robert, the sum of N200m as damages for the unlawful arrest and detention of the mother of two.
The presiding judge, Justice Ntong Ntong gave the order today in a judgment he delivered in a case of enforcement of fundamental rights brought by the applicant.
It was gathered that sometime in March this year, one Ifenyinwa Anthonia Olua, approached the applicant, one Peace Ekom Robert to link her up with someone in Europe that could buy euros and pay her in Naira.
£55,000 amounting to N42.9m was said to have been transferred to a Spanish account and surprised by the transfers which came in quick succession, the account holder reported to the Spanish authorities, who placed restrictions on the account on the suspicion that the money could be illicit funds.
Consequently, the applicant was arrested by the Police.
Joined in the suit as respondents were the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Administration, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja, Mr. Babazango Ibrahim; DSP Yusuf Dauda of Anti-Homicide Section, Alagbon in Lagos, Inspector Celestina Ugbaja of Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos and Police Service Commission.
In a one hour judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Ntong Ntong said he has “read in between lines the record file and has not seen where the Inspector General of Police and other respondents filed any process to challenge the averments of the applicant.”
Justice Ntong said the evidence before the Court showed that “the Police threw caution to the wind and became law unto themselves thereby bastarding the 1999 constitution, disrespecting the order of the Court and treating the name of God and office of the President and Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with disdain.”
The Court also ordered the Inspector General of Police and five other “respondents to return the N15m collected from the applicant to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Abuja pending the hearing and final determination of the criminal charge against the applicant before the Federal High Court.”
The trial judge held that the Police was not “a debt recovery agency and has no power to have extorted N15m from the applicant in a matter they have not concluded investigation nor the applicant tried and found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Counsel to the applicant and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Uwemedimo Nwoko described the Court as the last hope of the common man.
Counsel to the respondent, Barr. Akebong Essien said his client did no wrong to have reported the matter to the Police.
Up to the time of the judgment, the Police was yet to properly arraign the applicant who has remained in their custody since March, this year.