A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State has awarded three million naira damages against the Nigerian Navy over the violations of the rights of one Mr. Oto-Obong Peter.
Mr. Peter was, alongside several others arrested by naval personnel on May 24th 2020 at Potomas Hotel, Atimbo for allegedly carrying out cult activities.
Justice Rosemary Dugbo Oghoghorie who presided over the matter held that the actions of the Nigerian Navy on May 24, 2020 when it stormed the business premises of Mr. Peter and arrested several people and later handing them over to the police was a violation of their rights as investigations must precede arrests.
“This is to say generally, an arrest should not be made until the Police have concluded their investigation and immediately establish they acted reasonably to carry out their duties as obtained in the applicant and others arrested”, Justice Dugbo ruled.
She continued: “With the above facts and many others which have been obtained in the affidavit and counter affidavit, it will be just for this honorable court to hold that there was no reasonable suspicion that the applicant committed an offense which resulted in his arrest, detention and made to lay down on the floor and beaten by ten naval officers and ten other security agents; I believe the answer is in the negative.
“To this end, after due prosecution of facts, the documents and together the issue populated, all the issues in this case are resolved in favour of the applicant; the court therefore orders that the detention, torture, beating and maiming of the applicant and destruction of his property by the respondent is unlawful, unconstitutional and infringement of the applicant’s fundamental rights, human person, right to personal dignity, right to acquire property; the respondents are jointly and severally to pay the applicant the sum of three million Naira as damages for properties destroyed”.
In May 2020, reports emerged of the Nigerian Navy busting a cult initiation at Potomas hotel, Atimbo on the 24th day of the said month. The naval personnel allegedly stepped in, arrested dozens and later handed over to the Anti Cultism and Kidnapping Squad of the Cross River State command of the Nigerian Police Force on May 26th.
The second in command of the unit, DSP Igini Chukwumah received the suspects from the Navy Captain Ibrahim Geaska in the presence of the then Security Adviser, Mr. Ani Esin.
After days in detention, they were all released with police sources saying they could not establish any case against the suspects.
Mr. Peter who owns the hotel, was one of those beaten. He, alongside others, narrated their story to newsmen.
A pregnant woman was allegedly flogged as well. Mr. Peter then proceeded to file a suit seeking NGN500 million in damages and unprovoked attacks.
Mr Otoobong Peter suffered various degrees of injuries allegedly inflicted on him by the Naval Personnel in the motion on notice filed before the Court through his counsel, Mba Ukweni and Associate.
Mr. Peter had sought the court to declare that his “detention, torture, beating and maiming,” as well as the, “destruction of his property by the Respondents is unlawful and unconstitutional and an infringement of the Applicants right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to ownership of property and right to freedom of movement”.
One of the counsel to the applicant, Barr. Jacob Ukpai, told newsmen that he was elated as the judgment shows the count remains the last hope of the common man.
Also, a principal owner of Potomas hotel and bar, Sage Roberto Orji said it is a victory for all and called on those who delight pleasure in infringing on people’s rights to desist.