Mr. Ifeanyi Uba
*Awards Ifeanyi Uba N10m damages for detention
By Davidson Iriekpen
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court in Lagos Monday quashed the report of the Presidential Committee on the verification of oil subsidy payment to oil marketers as it relates to the Managing Director, Capital Oil and Gas Ltd, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba.
Delivering judgment on the fundamental rights suit filed by Uba, Justice Aneke said the report of the committee, which was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan, was tainted with malice. Managing Director of Access Bank Plc., Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, headed the committee.
The judge also awarded Uba N10 million as damages for being detained by the police based on the report.
Justice Aneke also granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the police, either acting by themselves or their privies, from harassing, detaining or otherwise infringing on the fundamental rights of the applicant.
Uba had filed the suit on January 10 through his counsel, Mr Ajibola Oluyede, against the Inspector General of Police, for the alleged infringement on his fundamental human rights.
Joined as respondent in the suit were the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Mr Ayotunde Ogunsakin, Aig-Imoukhuede and the Managing Director, Coscharis Motors, Mr. Cosmos Maduka.
Uba had filed the application, seeking an order of court to set aside an interim report issued by the CP SFU, dated November 2, 2012.
The applicant in his originating motion said the interim report in which the second respondent had purported that the applicant would be arraigned on a prima facie case of money laundering and criminal conspiracy, was a prosecutorial misconduct.
He also affirmed that another report dated November 3 in which it had stated that the report would be submitted in a case of stealing and economic sabotage, amounted to a breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights.
The applicant had then sought for a declaration, nullifying the complaint made by the Presidential Committee on the Verification of Oil Subsidy Payment to oil marketers as tainted by malice.
Uba also sought for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the IG, and CP, SFU, from further harassing, arresting or instituting any criminal process against him.
The applicant had further sought for compensatory damages in the sum of N10 billion to be paid by all respondents jointly and severally, for the injury suffered as a result of his detention at the Ikoyi office of the second respondent for 10 days.
At the last adjourned date, counsel representing the IG, Mr. Godwin Obla, had raised a preliminary objection to the application of Uba, contending that the applicant could not by his application, prevent the police from discharging their statutory duties.
Obla also contended that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the grounds that a similar suit had been heard by another judge of the Federal High Court, involving the applicant and in which judgment had been given against the applicant.
He therefore argued that the applicant should be stopped from bringing this application for fundamental rights enforcement, stating that the application constituted an abuse of court process.
Counsel to Access Bank, Mr. Paul Usoro, had also raised a preliminary objection to the suit, alleging lack of service of court process on the bank.
Usoro argued that none of the court processes was served on the bank, and so, the court cannot assume jurisdiction over a party that was not properly constituted before it.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Aneke held that the court was not stopped in any form whatsoever, from hearing the plaintiff’s application.
The judge said although a similar case might have been adjudicated upon before a brother judge in the same court, the substance and ingredient of both suits were entirely different.
“The doctrine of estoppel only operates where the parties are privies.
“The suit referred to by the respondent which came up before my learned brother, Justice Okon Abang, has no bearing with the instant suit.
“The facts, substance and ingredients of both suits are completely different. I therefore hold that the judgment of Abang does not constitute estoppel to this suit” Aneke ruled.
On the issue that the police could not be restrained from discharging their duties, the judge held that the provisions of section 4 of the Police Act, was subject to the overriding statutory provisions of the constitution.
He held that the court had a duty to regulate public officers in the discharge of their duties, especially where it is not done in accordance with the law, and where the personal liberties of individuals were at stake.
Aneke held that the police must ensure that their duties are carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience and in line with laid down provisions of law.
He therefore held that it was the duty of the court to regulate the conduct of public officers in the dispensation of their duties.
“It is my humble but firm view that this suit as instituted by the applicant is competent.
“By the provisions of chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the applicants’ suit and his ancillary reliefs sought are hereby sustained.
“The preliminary objection of the respondents, has no basis and is devoid of merit.
“The objection hereby fails, and is accordingly dismissed.
“An order of perpetual injunction is therefore made restraining the respondents either by themselves or their privies, from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing the applicant in any form whatsoever.
“The sum of N10 million is also awarded as damages against the respondents jointly and severally for infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant” Aneke held.
Responding to the judgment, Obla, said they were still studying it to know the next line of action.