Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the police to release a driver, Jones Ofori, who has been in prison since 2013 without trial.
Justice Hassan also directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to pay Ofori the sum of N10 million, as damages for his unlawful arrest and illegal detention.
The judge gave the orders, while delivering judgement in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the driver through his lawyer, Adewale A. Fadipe.
The applicant had joined the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Deputy-Controller of Prison (DCP) as respondents in the suit.
Ofori, in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/887/18, had asked the court for a declaration that his arrest and detention for two weeks and a week at Ajiwe Police Station and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Ikeja respectively, is illegal and constitutes an infringement of his fundamental rights to personal liberty as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And a declaration that his continued imprisonment without trial constitutes an infringement of his freedom to personal liberty as guaranteed by the Nigeria’s constitution.
Ofori also asked the court for an order for his immediate release from the prison custody. And a court order that he should be produce before the court.
The applicant further asked the court to award the sum of N50 million in his favour, for his unlawful arrest, detention and continued detention.
Ofori in an affidavit attached and deposed to by Oguntuwase Olatunde, a lawyer in the Law firm of Wale Fadipe and Co., averred that sometimes in the year 2013, he was employed by one Ikechukwu to drive a car for commercial purpose.
He states that on November 14, 2013, at about 9p.m, after close of work, he parked the car at a general car park around his house in Ajah, Lagos and on November 14, at about 6 a.m, on getting to where the car was parked in order to clean it and get ready for the day’s work, he discovered that the car was missing.
The deponent stated that upon discovered that the car was missing, he put a call to the said Ikechukwu, with whom he went to the Ajiwe Police Station and on getting to the Police Station, he was questioned by the police officers on duty, while the Investigative Police Officer (IPO) told him that he would be detained while the investigation is being conducted.
He also stated that after being detained for two weeks in Ajiwe Police Station, Ajah, he was transferred to SARS Ikeja, where he was detained for another one week before he was arraigned before Magistrate Court 17, Ikeja, on December 2013, on charges of armed robbery which he knew nothing about.
And that he has since been remanded in prison custody without any further trial.
He therefore urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought.
The respondents, though, filed counter to the applicant’s application but it was not serve on the applicant.
Delivering judgement in the suit on Monday, Justice Hassan, said he noted that the respondents filed counter to the suit but there is no proof of service of the counter on the applicant in the court file. And that the respondents never appear before the court to argue the counter.
The judge said with the development, he is therefore constrained to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant.
Consequently, Justice Hassan while declaring the arrest and detention of applicant as Illegal and unlawful, ordered the Deputy-Controller of Prisons, to release the applicant (Jones Ofori) from detention immediately.
The judge also awarded the cost of N10 million damages against the third respondent, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), for the unlawful arrest and detention of the driver.
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