A Federal High Court, Abuja division, on Friday, ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris to pay N2 million as exemplary damages for illegal arrest and detention of a lawyer, Mr. Peter Ozoagu, for eight hours.
The court presided over by Justice Okon Abang, also awarded N30, 000 cost in favour of the applicant.
Apart from the Inspector General of Police, other respondents in the case were the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command, SP Mu’Azu Isa Abba, ASP Masari Salihu, and one Bala Mohammed.
The court was told that Abba and Salihu, acting on the instruction of Mohammed, arrested and detained the applicant for eight at Mopol 24 Asokoro Abuja on February 4, 2016.
The applicant had gone with a court bailiff, a police officer and a representative of judgement creditor, to execute a judgement of an Abuja Magistrate Court against the first respondent, Bala Mohammed, when the policemen swooped on them and arrested them (including the police officer) and took them to their office at Asokoro.
Ozoagu’s client, Mr. Marcus Habila had obtained a judgement of N920, 000 against Mohammed, consequent upon which he had gone to Mohammed’s residence with a court bailiff to execute it but was illegally arrested by the police.
He told the court that his arrest and detention between the hours of 10 a.m and 6 p.m of February 4, 2016 was an infringement on his fundamental rights as enshrined in sections 34, 35, 36 and 46 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The applicant further told the court that the action of the respondents amounts to usurpation of power of the court, disobedience of court orders and fragrant abuse of power.
According to the applicant, “it is unfair and a disobedience to court in Nigeria for the 1st respondent to prevent execution of the judgement of the court, he was aware and never appealed against.”
In his judgement, Justice Abang held that the arrest and detention of the applicant was “unlawful, illegal and a breach” of his fundamental rights.
The judge further stated that the respondents “acted outside the colours of their office,” adding that “the infractions of the applicant’s right entitle him not only to compensatory but exemplary and punitive damages.”
He said the IGP and the CoP FCT were vicariously liable for the actions of the 4th and 5th respondents because there was no disclaimer against them neither were they arrested, detained and charged before a panel for their unlawful action, nor were they reprimanded, or sanctioned for taking laws into their hands.
He added that the amount is to be jointly or severally paid by the respondents.