Court Orders Police To Pay N5m Compensation To Journalist In Akwa Ibom

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By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo

Assistant Inspector General of Police and Inspector Patrick Edet both of Zone 6 headquarters in Calabar, Cross River State have been ordered to pay the sum of N5m as compensation to one Edet Okpo, a journalist for his wrongful arrest and unconstitutional detention for seven days.

The High Court sitting in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State gave the order after finding the duo guilty of contravening the provisions of Section 35(4) and (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
The presiding judge, Justice Okon Okon handed the order in her judgement delivered by in a case of enforcement of fundamental rights filed before the court by the applicant.
Joined in the suit are Commodore Emmanuel Effedua, the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (1st Respondent); Inspector Patrick Edet, IPO, Police Zonal Headquarters, Zone 6, Calabar (2nd Respondent) and Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar (3rd Respondent).
In a one-hour judgment, Justice Okon also ordered the 2nd and 3rd respondents to return or refund to the applicant, the sum of N1,995,000, being the money they collected from the Journalist without lawful occasion while he was in their custody.
Justice Okon declared “that the arrest and detention of the applicant by the 2nd and 3rd respondents from 17th July, 2020 to 20th July, 2020 was unconstitutional and constituted an infringement of the applicant’s right to personal liberty and freedom jmovement.”COURT ORDERS ASSISTANT
“The case of the Applicant is that he arrived at the State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo on 17/7/2020, following a phone call he received and the 2nd Respondents informed him of a petition, which the 1st Respondent had written against him. The Applicant said he was taken into the Central Cell and detained thereat from 17/7/2022 till 20/7/2020 where he was transferred to Zone 6 Police Headquarters, Calabar. The Court stated.
Justice Okon said “while in the custody of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, the Applicant said the 2nd Respondent led him to UBA, Aka Road Branch, Uyo, where he was forced to withdraw Two  Million Naira(#2,000000)  and handed over to the 2nd Respondent. The wife of the Applicant said she visited the Applicant while in detention at the Central Cell, Uyo and later at Calabar to give him food, clothes and drugs but she was denied access to the Applicant.”
The Court held that “the case of the 1st Respondent is a total denial that he instigated the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to arrest the Applicant as his petition. The 1st Respondent admits, however that the 2nd and 3rd Respondents in their telephone chats on 17/7/2020 told him that the investigation of Exhibit DE1 led them to arrest the Applicant  in connection with the petition.”
According to the Court “The 1st Respondent said the 2nd Respondent further informed him that the Applicant was promptly released on bail on 18/7/2020 as per Exhibit DE3, the Police Bail Bond. According to the 1st Respondent, he had no hand or control or took part in any manner whatsoever in the investigation and other allied activities of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents outside making his petition to the 3rd Respondent.”
Justice Okon said “on the part of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, their case is that the 3rd Respondent received criminal complaints (Exhibit AIG1) written by the 1st Respondent “against the Applicant and his cohorts.” The 2nd and 3rd Respondents detailed their investigation activities into Exhibit AIG 1. The 2nd and 3rd Respondents denied that the 2nd Respondent in company of any Police Officer or Policeman forcefully took the Applicant to UBA, Uyo Branch to withdraw the sum of Two Million Naira. They however, admitted that they have with them, the sum of (N1,995,000.00) which they intend to tender in Court at the trial of the Amended Charge in Exhibit AIG3.
The Court held that “in one hand, they claimed that the Applicant was not arrested and/or detained at all. On the other hand, they claimed that the Applicant was arrested for attempting to induce and compromise Police detectives. Yet they claimed also that the Applicant was arrested following his confession to the crime alleged in 1st Respondent’s petition following his implication by Inyene Udoh. Furthermore, they claimed that the Applicant was promptly released on bail 17/7/2020. The 2nd and 3rd Respondent cannot approbate and reprobate.”
Justice Okon held that “by even admitting that the Applicant was charged and he made statement after which the Applicant was released on administrative bail, the Respondents tacitly admitted that the Applicant was arrested and detained.”
“The 2nd and 3rd Respondents have not been able to justify the detention of the Applicant from 17/7/2020 to 23/7/2020 without releasing him on bail when they could not arraign him in line with the provisions of Section 35(4) and (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The Court held.
 Justice Okon asserted that “It is inconceivable that the applicant would be on bail and still go to Court to seek his release from detention as the Respondents would want the Court to believe.”
“This Court is a Court of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the Federal High Court. It is only imperative that I remind the Respondents including their learned Counsel and indeed all associated with this case that litigation or advocacy, though may be a game of wits, certainly is not a game of intrigues. No one should set this Court on a collision course with any other Court of co-ordinate jurisdiction, nay, any other Court at all, especially our Superior Courts of Records. Justice Okon held.

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