Court orders police to pay journalist N5m for wrongful arrest, detention

Justice Okon Okon of the Akwa Ibom State High Court has ordered the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar, Cross River State, Zaki Ahmed, and Inspector Patrick Edet of Police Zonal Headquarters, Calabar, to pay a journalist, Edet Okpo, N5 million as compensation for his wrongful arrest and unconstitutional detention for seven days.

Justice Okon delivered the judgment on suit no HIT/FHR12/2020 at Ibiono judicial division in a case of enforcement of fundamental rights filed before the court by the applicant, Okpo.

Joined in the suit are Commodore Emmanuel Effedua, the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, who was the 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 collected from the journalist without lawful occasion while he was in their custody.

Okon said: “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 respondent 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 judge added that “while in the custody of the 2nd and 3rd respondents, the applicant said the 2nd respondent led him to United Bank for Africa, the 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. 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 the 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 “The 2nd and 3rd Respondent cannot approbate and reprobate. On 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. Furthermore, they claimed that the applicant was promptly released on bail on 17/7/2020.

Justice Okon held that “by even admitting that the applicant was charged and he made the statement after which the Applicant was released on administrative bail, the respondents tacitly admitted that the Applicant was arrested and detained.”

He said, “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.”

Counsel to the applicant Solomon Ukpe Esq, and Counsel to the 2nd and 3rd respondent, Alex Ewa Esq, all admitted the judgment and commended the judge.

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