Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Court orders compensation for Capital Oil Boss  

Henry Ojelu
A Nigerian Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, today ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, Access Bank Plc and 2 others to pay N10 million to the Managing Director, Capital Oil & Gas Ltd, Ifeanyi Ubah as damages for infringing on his fundamental human rights.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke also granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the police, either acting by themselves or their privies, from harrassing, detaining or otherwise infringing on the fundamental rights of Ubah.
Ubah had filed the suit on 10 January, 2013 through his counsel, Mr Ajibola Oluyede, against the I-G, for alleged infringement on his fundamental human rights.
Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah: judge wants him paid for rights infringement
Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah: judge wants him paid for rights infringement
Joined as respondent in the suit is the Commissioner of Police, Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Mr Ayotunde Ogunsakin, the Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede and the Managing Director, Coscharis Motors, Mr Cosmos Maduka
The suit also sought for an order of court to set aside an interim report issued by the CP SFU, dated 2nd November, 2012.
The applicant in his originating motion said that the interim report in which the second respondent had purported that the applicant would be arraigned on a prima facie case of money laundering and criminal conspiracy, was a prosecutorial misconduct.
He also affirmed that another report dated 3 November, 2012 in which it had stated that the report would be submitted in a case of stealing and economic sabotage, amounted to a breach of the applicant’s fundamental right.
The applicant had then sought for a declaration, nullifying the complaint made by the Presidential Committee on verification of oil subsidy payment to oil marketers as tainted by malice.
Ubah also sought for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the IGP, and CP, SFU, from further harassing, arresting or instituting any criminal process against him.
The applicant had further sought for compensatory damage in the sum of N10 billion to be paid by all respondents jointly and severally, for the injury suffered as a result of his detention at the Ikoyi office of the second respondent for 10 days.
At the last adjourned date, counsel representing the I-G, Mr Godwin Obla, had raised a preliminary objection to the application of Ubah contending that the applicant could not by his application, prevent the police from discharging their statutory duties.
Obla also contended that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the ground that a similar suit had been heard by another judge of the federal high court, involving the applicant and in which judgment had been given against the applicant.
He therefore argued that the applicant should be stopped from bringing this application for fundamental rights enforcement stating that the application constituted an abuse of court process.
Counsel to Access Bank, Mr Paul Usoro, had also raised a preliminary objection to the suit alleging lack of service of court process on Access bank.
Usoro argued that non of the court processes was served on Access bank, and so, the court cannot assume jurisdiction over a party that was not properly constituted before it.
This argument was also aligned with by Counsel to Coscharis motors, who also objected to the suit on the grounds that they too had not been served with processes in the suit.
He contended that this robbed the court of the requisite jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Delivering his judgment Justice Aneke held on the issue of estoppel that the court was not estopped in any form whatsoever, from hearing the plaintiff’s application.
The judge said that although a similar case may have been adjudicated upon before a brother judge in the same court, the substance and ingredient of both suits were entirely different.
“The doctrine of estoppel only operates where the parties are privies.
“The suit referred to by the respondent which came up before my learned brother Justice Okon Abang, has no bearing with the instant suit.
“The facts, substance and ingredients of both suits are completely different, I therefore hold that the judgment of Abang does not constitute estoppel to this suit” Aneke ruled.
On the issue that the police could not be restrained from discharging their duties, Aneke held that the provisions of section 4 of the Police act, was subject to overriding statutory provisions of the constitution.
He held that the court had a duty to regulate public officers in the discharge of their duties especially where it is not done in accordance with the law, and where the personal liberties of individuals were at stake.
Aneke held that the police must ensure that their duties are carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience and in line with laid down provisions of law.
He therefore held that it was the duty of the court to regulate the conduct of public officers in the dispensation of their duties.
On the issue of non service as contended by both counsel to Access bank and Coscharis motors, the judge held that a proof of service of court process was an overwhelming evidence of service.
He held that the proof of the service of the court processes on the two respondents, were clearly exhibited in the courtuiu’s file.
He therefore held that the proof of service, points to the fact that all respondents were duly served contrary to their claim.
“The proof of service in the court’s file is a testimony to the service of processes on the respondents, and it stands unchallenged” he said.
He also held that the respondents were duly served with all court processes.
“It is my humble but firm view that this suit as instituted by the applicant is competent.
“By the provisions of chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the applicants suit and his ancillary reliefs sought is hereby sustained.
“The preliminary objection of the respondents, has no basis and is devoid of merit.
“The objection hereby fails, and is accordingly dismissed.
“An order of perpetual injunction is therefore made restraining the respondents either by themselves or their privies, from arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing the applicant in any form whatsoever.
“The sum of N10 million is also awarded as damages against the respondents jointly and severally for infringing on the personal liberty of the applicant” Aneke held.

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