Court Fines Police N2m For Detaining Couple For 8 Days
Justice Sule Hassan of a Federal High Court, Lagos, has ordered police authority in Nigeria, to pay the sum of N2 million to a couple, for detaining them for eight, the action the judge said breached the couple’s fundamental rights.
The couple that will be beneficiaries of the N2 million fines, according to Justice Hasan are: Reverend Godwin Izuchukwu and his wife, Reverend (Mrs.) Prayer Godwin.
The fine was awarded against the police while the judge delivered a judgment in Reverend and Mrs. Godwin’s fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the couple against Inspector-General of Police (IGP and three others.
Other respondent in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/699/19, are: Police Commissioner in-charge of Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU) Ikoyi, Lagos, Jane Nzekwe and Kate Nwuba.
The Godwins had dragged the IGP and other respondents before the court, for detaining them beyond the period stipulated by the constitution.
The couple in the motion on notice filed before the court through their lawyer, Prince Chinewubeze, had told the court that they were detained for eight days by the men of SPFU, Ikoyi, at the instance of Jane Nzekwe and Kate Nwuba, the action they claimed infringed on their fundamental rights as guarantee by the Nigerian Constitution.
Consequently, the couple asked the court to declare that their arrest and detention from April 24, till May 1, 2019, without bringing her before any court of law, by officers and men of the IGP and PSFU, Ikoyi, at the instance of the third and fourth Respondents, is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of their fundamental rights to personal liberty, freedom of movement and dignity of the human person.
They had also asked the court to declare that the beating and torture of the Mrs. Godwin while in detention by officers and men of the IGP and SPFU, was illegal, unlawful, barbaric, unconstitutional and a breach of Mrs. Godwin’s fundamental| right to the dignity of the human person. And a declaration that their harassment, intimidation and threats of arrest and detention of the Reverend Godwin, officers and men of the first and second respondents over a civil matter which is purely a commercial transaction is “legal, unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of the first applicant’s fundamental rights to personal liberty, freedom of movement and dignity of the human person.
Furthermore, the couple sought an order of mandatory injunction directing the first and second respondents to immediately release the Mrs. Godwin unconditionally. And an Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from further harassing, threatening, intimidating, arresting and detaining the Applicants for no just or reasonable cause.
The couple equally asked the court for sum of N100 million against the respondents jointly and severally, being general damages for the unlawful and detention, beating and torture.
In urging the court to dismissed the couple’s suit, the third and fourth respondents, Jane and Kate, through their counsel, Gift Ike, in their 27 paragraphs counter-affidavit stated that to warrant the court’s intervention In an action for enforcement of fundamental human rights, the Applicants must show a legal interest which is likely to be adversely affected by the act of the first respondents, on which he is calling on the court to intervene.
The respondents’ counsel also submitted that in determining whether the Applicants’ rights have been or likely to be breached, the court must have recourse to the parties’ case. While adding that her clients only laid a complaint of commission of a crime against the Applicants to the IGP and PSFU, Ikoyi, as an agency of government saddled with the responsibility of investigating a commission of a crime.
The lawyer while relied on Section 4 of the Police Act and Section 35(1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the Police the power to detect crime, and that the power of arrest is also constitutional. While submitted that the right to personal liberty is not absolute but circumscribed by the same Constitution.
She further submitted that reporting the case to the IGP and SPFU for investigation cannot amount to a breach of the fundamental rights of the applicants and that her clients did not give any particulars of the alleged fraud against the applicants.
She therefore urged the court to dismiss the couple’s suit against her clients.
Both the IGP and SPFU did not file any counter to the applicants’ suit.
Delivering judgment in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, Justice Hassan held that : “I have carefully examined the affidavit evidence, the exhibits attached, the written and oral submission by both parties. In my humble view, the issue for determination is: “Whether the Applicants are entitled to the reliefs sought in the light of the facts of this case.
“Section 214 of the Constitution 1999 (as Amended) recognizes one Police Force, for Nigeria and the said Police are given a duty under Section 4 of the Police, Act to prevent and detect crime, apprehend offenders, preserve law and Order, protect life and property and enforce all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged.
“it is an important statutory duty which they owe to the generality of Nigerian and all other persons lawfully living within Nigeria. It follows that in their duty to detect crime, allegations of the crime committed by any person should normal|y be investigated by the Police.
“In the instant case, the third and fourth respondents reported a case of fraudulent activities against the applicants to the first and second respondents pursuant to which the applicants were arrested and later released after the initial investigation.
“I agree with the submission of Learned Counsel for the third and fourth respondents that reporting the case to the first and second respondents and the first and second respondents, arresting the applicants for further investigation cannot be said, to have breached the applicants’ fundamental right.
“The first and second Respondents did hot file counter affidavit. The allegation against the first second Respondent; inter alia includes detaining the 2nd Applicant for 8 days.
“This averment was not denied by the first second respondents, where a party files an affidavit deposing to certain vital facts which are material to the case in dispute, the opposing party has the duty to counter those facts by way of a counter-affidavit, Failure to do so, those facts will be deemed unchallenged
”In the instant case, the deposition of the first Applicants is that they were detained was not denied by the Respondents. It has not been suggested by the Respondents, that there was no court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometres or a period of one day as contemplated.
“By detaining the Applicant for over 24 hours without charging him to court, the first and second Respondents, I hold, infringed the provision of the constitution.
“The Applicant by this application want inter alia a restraining Order against the Respondents, the law is trite that a court of law cannot prevent law enforcement agencies from exercising their constitutional power.
“From the foregoing, i hold that the first and second Respondents (Police) by detaining the second applicant for eight days without bail or charging her to court violated her Constitutional right.
“The sum of N2 million is awarded as damages against the first and second Respondents (Police).
“The Applicants must submit themselves to the first and second Respondents for conclusion of investigation. I hereby order applicants to report to first and second Respondents for conclusion of investigation”.