A High Court, sitting at Owa-Oyibu in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State, has awarded the sum of N500, 000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) to one Chief Samuel Okwunwa for infringement of his fundamental right.
The Court presided over by Honourable Justice Helen Akpotohwo declared the arrest and detention of the applicant for five days over a land matter in which he (applicant) was a witness and subsequently a caretaker, as constituting a veritable infringement of his Fundamental Rights enshrined under Sections 34 (1) paragraph (a), 35 and 41 of the 1999 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Articles 6, 7 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation 2004.
In suit No. HCY/13M/2017 Chief Samuel Okwunwa (Applicant) Vs Inspector General of Police, Dr. Geoffrey Ohen and Supol Raphael Okoh (respondents) the applicant instituted a fundamental rights action against the three respondent seeking reliefs.
The reliefs, among others, include a declaration that his detention for five days instigated by the second respondent over a land matter on which the court had delivered judgement constituted infringement of his fundamental right; a declaration that the demand and acceptance of the sum of N260,000.00 from him by the third respondent for bail constitutes a breach of his right to property and an order of injunction restraining the respondents whether by themselves, servants, officers, agents or otherwise from further interfering with his right.
Learned counsel to the 1st and 3rd respondents F. O. Itua urged the court to dismiss the application describing same to be diversionary and misleading.
He argued that the 2nd respondent has a right to make complaint to the Nigeria Police Force and the Police were constitutionally empowered to invite/arrest the applicant for the purpose of the allegations made/discovered against him, and that the Applicant was not immune from criminal liability vis a vis being investigated by the 1st and 3rd Respondents.
On his part, Counsel for the Applicant, Raymond Isitor urged the Court to take cognizance of Section 23 of the Criminal Code, asserting that the respondents had no powers to get involved in any matter where there was a bonafide claim of right.
Delivering judgement, the Learned Jurist stated that it was the duty of citizens to report cases of crime to the Police for investigation and that the Applicant was not immune from criminal investigation.
The Court further said that having carefully gone through the application of the Applicant, affidavit evidence of the parties, and submissions of learned counsel it discovered that the parcel of land that the 2nd Respondent petitioned the Police alleging some criminal allegations against the Applicant was the same land in which judgement was given in favour of one Anthony Ogor in Suit No. HCY/5/2015.
It stated that 1st and 3rd respondents would have realised that it was purely a civil matter which had nothing to do with their constitutional and statutory duties and would have advised the 2nd respondent rightly on what to do.
The Court therefore held the arrest and detention of the Applicant unlawful, awarded the sum of N500,000.00 against the 2nd Respondent in favour of the Applicant being damages for instigating the breach of Applicant’s fundamental right, and an order of injunction restraining the Respondents whether by themselves, servants, officers, agents or otherwise from further interfering with the Applicant’s right in respect of suit No.HCY/13M/2017 for which he came to court.