Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday fixed July 6, 2017, for judgement in the enforcement of fundamental human rights suit brought against the police and five others by the Incorporated Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) and its National Commandant, Dickson Akoh.
Justice Kolawole fixed the date after taking arguments of counsel for and against the motion.
The PCN has slammed a N2 billion suit against the Police, Inspector General of Police (IG), National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of Security Services (DSS) and its Director-General and the Attorney General of Police (AGF) over the unlawful arrest and detention of its National Commandant, Akoh, and 49 others in an unlawful raid of the organisation headquarters in Abuja on February 28, 2017, by a combined team of police and the DSS.
At the resumed trial yesterday, lead counsel for the applicants, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), in arguing the motion, urged the court to grant the prayers of the applicants. He said while the main question before the court is whether the first applicant is a legitimate organisation, the respondents in their various submissions had already conceded to this fact.
Agabi said while the contention of the respondents seems to allege that the applicants are engaging in activities that are military or paramilitary in nature, they have however failed to substantiate their claims.
He said it is based on the inability of the respondents to substantiate the claims that he is asking the court to grant the prayers of the applicants so that they can go about their legitimate business.
Agabi made reference to various documents including judgements of competent courts recognising the PCN as a legitimate organisation.
Responding, counsel to the first and second respondents, IG and the Nigerian Police respectively, David Ighodo, urged the court to dismiss the application on the grounds that the applicants are already facing a 90-count criminal charge before a brother judge at the Federal High Court.
He said the fact that an organisation is registered does not give it the right to run afoul of the law. According to him, the PCN was registered as a non-governmental organisation but has since departed from its original mandate.
Ighodo disclosed that part of the offences the federal government has slammed against the applicants borders on money laundering, operating private security guard as well as training of militia.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit and being purely academic, adding that the motion of the applicants was promised on the condition that they (PCN) do not commit an offence, whereas a 90-count criminal charge has been filed against them.
Similarly, counsel to the third to sixth respondents, Oyin Koleosho, in urging the court to dismiss the application, argued that the arrest and detention of the applicants was lawful based on reasonable suspicion of committing an offence, adding that the applicants were not detained beyond the 48 hours stipulated by law.
Koleosho arguing further, said the registration of the first applicant at the Corporate Affairs Commission did not show where it was entitled to engage in the recruitment of people, collection of fees, training activities and wearing of uniforms.
He also urged the court to reject some exhibits tendered by the applicants on the grounds that they were not certified, and therefore cannot support the motion of the applicants.
After listening to the submission of counsel in the matter, Justice Kolawole fixed July 6 for delivering of judgment.
In the suit filed by a former AGF, Kanu Agabi (SAN), the plaintiffs are demanding a sum of N2billion as compensation for the embarrassment caused the PCN and its Incorporated Trustees by the arrest and detention of its personnel in a commando style by security operatives.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the arrest of Akoh and other officers of the Corps as well as the sealing up of its head office in Abuja and offices in the 36 states of the federation.
They further asked the court to declare that under the 1999 constitution as amended, they have not committed any offence to warrant their arrest, detention and sealing up of their offices across the country as done by the defendants.
Apart from the above reliefs, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the sealing up of their office headquarters in Abuja is illegal, unlawful, malicious and unconstitutional, having not committed any offence to warrant the unlawful invasion and seizure of property.
Besides, the applicants are asking the court to declare that they are entitled to fundamental rights to acquire and own property, lawful assembly, freedom of movement, personal liberty and dignity of their human persons as guaranteed under sections 34, 35, 40, 41, and 43 of the 1999 constitution.
The plaintiffs therefore applied for an order compelling the respondents to un-seal the headquarters of the PCN and its offices nationwide.
They also asked the court to order the respondents to release property seized during their unlawful invasion of the applicantsâ€™ office and also prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, their privies or agents from further sealing the applicantsâ€™ office and disrupting their activities, including its meetings and orientation of its members.
They further asked the court for an order restraining the respondents perpetually from further harassing, intimidating, arresting and or detaining the applicants in the course of doing their legitimate duties.