The Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) on Thursday won its N2bn Human Rights Suit instituted against the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, the Nigerian Police Force and 4 others.
This was even as the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Gabriel Kolawole also gave an order that the National Headquarters of the Corps located at No 57 Iya Abubakar Crescent, off Alex Ekwueme way, opposite Jabi Lake, Jabi, Abuja, be unsealed forthwith while asking Police to release other properties of the Corps within 7 days.
The National Commandant of Peace Corps of Nigeria, Amb ( Dr. ) Dickson Akoh and 49 other officers of the Corps who were arrested on February 28th, 2017, had approached the court, through their Lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi ( SAN ), seeking redress over their unlawful arrest, detention and brutality.
In the raid of February 28th, some officers of the Corps were allegedly brutalised, leading to admission of about 6 officers at National Assembly, lying unconscious.
In the originating summon supported with 49-paragraph affidavit, the PCN annexed coloured photographs of its officers who were lying at the pools of their own blood with broken heads, as well as certified copies of medical bill receipt from the National Hospital, Abuja, as evidences.
Akoh and other officers were also detained till 2nd of March 2017 and was thereafter rearrested and detained for 11 days.
Narrating his ordeal shortly after his release, Akoh lamented how the young nursing mothers amongst the officers were denied access to their babies for 3 days and were kept in detention without food or water to bathe with.
Irked by the seemingly inhuman treatment, Chief Agabi approached the court on behalf of the Corps, demanding for N2bn damages as claims against the violation of the fundamental human rights of Peace Corps officers.
In a landslide judgment delivered Thursday, Justice Kolawole said it was proper for the law enforcement agencies to carry out their statutory duties, but it was illegal for such duties to be carried out in a way that would infringe on the rights of citizens.
He said the Respondents could not provide any evidence to support their claims that the activities of the Peace Corps of Nigeria was a threat to national security and that the warrant of arrest and detention claimed to have been obtained by the Police ought to have been displayed before effecting the arrest.
The Judge also said the reports of the panel set up by the Nigerian Police in 2008 and 2010 and the investigation carried out by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2014 clearly stated that the activities of the Peace Corps of Nigeria were legal.
Justice Kolawole mentioned 11 judgements delivered at various federal high court in favour of PCN which were not appealed against by the Police.
He said the Respondents failed to convince the court that the 90-count charge filed against the first and second applicants before Justice John Tsoho had nothing to do with the instant suit.
He wondered why the Police should seal off the premises of the Corps when there were substantiate judgements of the Court that the officers of the Corps should not be obstructed from carrying out their lawful duties.
The Judge therefore ruled that the Nigerian Police and the Inspector-General of Police should pay the sum of N12.5m as damages to the Peace Corps officers.
“The country is just coming out of recession now and with the understanding that the federal government does not have money, I therefore award the sum of N12.5m against the 1st and 2nd Respondents, being the real antagonists of the Applicants”, the Judge said.
He also frowned at the inability of the Attorney General of the Federation to advise the Police on the various court rulings standing against the agency.
In the judgement that lasted for over one hour, Justice Kolawole also made a definite order, restraining the 1st and 2nd respondents from prohibiting the applicants from carrying out their lawful duties.