An Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Uyo, on Tuesday, ordered the Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, the Police Service Commission and four others to pay one Peace Robert the sum of N200m as housewife and a mother of two, damages for her unlawful arrest and detention.
Presiding judge, Justice Ntong Ntong gave the order in a judgment he delivered in a case of enforcement of fundamental rights brought by the applicant.
Particulars of the case indicated that one Ifenyinwa Olua approached the applicant, Peace Robert to link her up with someone in Europe who could buy euros and pay her in Naira, in March.
The sum of £55,000 amounting to N42.9m was said to have been transferred to a Spanish account and surprised by the transfers which came in quick succession, the account holder reported to the Spanish authorities, who placed restrictions on the account on the suspicion that the money could be illicit funds.
Consequently, the applicant was arrested by the police.
Joined in the suit as respondents were the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Administration, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja, Mr. Babazango Ibrahim; DSP Yusuf Dauda of Anti-Homicide Section, Alagbon in Lagos, Inspector Celestina Ugbaja of Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos and Police Service Commission.
Justice Ntong Ntong in his judgement, said he has “read in between lines the record file and has not seen where the Inspector General of Police and other respondents filed any process to challenge the averments of the applicant.”
The judge said the evidence before the court showed that “the police threw caution to the wind and became a law unto themselves thereby bastarding the 1999 constitution, disrespecting the order of the court and treating the name of God and office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with disdain.”
The judge also ordered the IGP and five other “respondents to return the N15m collected from the applicant to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Abuja pending the hearing and final determination of the criminal charge against the applicant before the Federal High Court.”
The trial judge held that the police were not “a debt recovery agency and has no power to have extorted N15m from the applicant in a matter they have not concluded investigation nor the applicant tried and found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Counsel for the applicant, Uwemedimo Nwoko (SAN), described the court as the last hope of the common man while counsel for the respondent, Akebong Essien, said his client did no wrong to have reported the matter to the police.
As of the time of the judgment, the police had yet to properly arraign the applicant who has remained in their custody since March.