A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar has ordered the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC) to pay the Managing Director, Ultimate Frank filling station, Okuku in Yala local government area of Cross River, Messrs Frank Oko and his staff, Raphael Ogbe the sum of N21m as damages.
The duo in a Suit No. FHC/CA/FHR/47/2016 sought for the enforcement of their fundamental rights brought pursuant to section 46 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) as well as order 11, rules 1 of the fundamental rights enforcement procedure) rules 2009 against the respondents (NSCDC) and prayed the court for an order for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights.
In the judgement delivered by Justice I E Ekwo, the Judge said, having perused the oral and documentary evidences on both sides, “I am unable to find where in the entire defence of the respondents, where the case of the applicant has been controverted with credible evidence.
“I have noted that the respondents have sought to controvert the documentary evidence of the applicant particularly Exibit MEU 2, MEU 3A, 3B, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E and 3F using oral evidence, which is the averment in the counter affidavit.”
He held that the law was trite that documentary evidence cannot by any measure be varied or demolished by oral evidence.
The position of the law, according to him, is that, once documentary evidence supports oral evidence, such oral evidence becomes more credible.
Having taken a critical look at the suit and counter affidavits of the parties in the case, the trial Judge, in his opinion, noted that the defence of the respondents did not hold water.
“I find that the 3rd–7th respondents are unable to justify their action; I am forced to note that the defence of the respondents is porous in its entirety, reliant on affidavit evidence. I find that the case put forth by the applicant has not been successfully discredited by the respondents, and I must therefore, attach probative value thereto”, the court held.
He noted that the case must therefore, succeed on its merit as he has evaluated the affidavits and documentary evidence of the applicant and found them to be admissible, relevant, credible, conclusive and more probable than that tendered by the respondents.
“I agree with the learned counsel for the applicant that apology and compensation are consequential where the court finds that the fundamental rights of a person are breached”, he said.
In line with the aforesaid, the trial Judge gave an order directing the respondents to jointly and severally pay to the applicants damages totalling N21million for breaching their fundamental rights.
Reacting to the judgement, Oko said that the judiciary was the last hope of a common man, stressing”I am happy about the judgement”
Mba Nkweni, SAN, and others (Council to the applicants), had told the court that the arrest of the suspects, detention, assault, battery, humiliation and brutalization by the respondents (NSCDC) is wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional, callous, inhuman and a blatant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.
He said that the action of the respondents, particularly, the 3rd to the 7th respondents in brutalizing, intimidating and traumatizing the applicant, extorting and seizing/confiscating monies from him without any lawful cause all amounts to abuse of office as against their statutory responsibilities and powers as provided for in the NSCDC Acts, No. 6 of 2007; Cap N146 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010.
In view of this, the SAN said he was seeking an order directing the respondents to pay the applicant the sum of One hundred thousand Naira (N100, 000) extorted from them before releasing the applicant and three other persons on the 7th January, 2016.
The SAN also said that the sum of Eight hundred and sixty thousand naira (860,000) was seized, confiscated or stolen from a Highlander Camry car, No. ABJ 903 HY driven into the respondents’ premises by the applicant, only.
Consequently, the SAN requested for an order of mandatory injunction directing the respondents to jointly and severally pay the applicant the sum of two hundred thousand naira only being his total medical bill for his treatment at the police clinic, Ogoja occasioned by the assault and battery on him by the respondents.
“An order further directing the respondents to jointly pay the applicant the sum of two hundred thousand naira (#200,000) only per day, and for the 25 days the respondents detained the applicant’s truck with Reg. No.UMA 77 YW on the false and erroneous allegation that the applicant was diverting the AGO in the tanker amounting to a total of Five Million Naira (#5,000,000) only for depriving the applicant of the use of the vehicle.
“The applicant is further directing the respondent to tender a written unreserved public apology to the applicant within thirty( 30) days from the date of the judgement which should be published in at least, three national dailies or as may be directed by the court among others.
He said the respondents violated the applicants rights to his personal liberty, the dignity of his person and freedom of movement. It further stated that the respondent, acted contrary to the provisions in the NSCDC Acts, No. 6 which empowers them to maintain peace and order, protection and rescuing of civil population during emergencies among other duties.