Unlawful Arrest of Peace Corps: Court Fines Police N12.5m

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to pay a fine of N12.5m as compensation to officials of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) for their unlawful arrest and detention on February 28, 2017.
The Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, also ordered the Police to immediately unseal the Corporate headquarters of the Peace Corps, located at the Utako District of Abuja sealed since February 28, 2017 when the Police invaded the premises during its official commissioning.
Delivering judgment in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against police and others, Justice Kolawole held that Police and the other security agents involved in the invasion of Peace Corps house were reckless in their action and they acted outside their statutory powers.
The Judge held that the Police have no business to have acted the way and manner they carried out the arrest of the Peace Corps men and barricading their office 10 months ago.
The Judge agreed that the police and the other security agents have statutory powers to make arrest and detention but however said that such powers must be exercised with decency, decorum and in compliance with relevant laws that protects the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizenry.
According to the Justice Kolawole, the respondent failed to establish that the Peace Corps’ officials were committing crime or have committed crimes when they swooped on them adding also that, the allegation by the Police and others that the Peace Corps was engaging in military and paramilitary training for its officers and men was not established to justift their unlawful action.
Justice Kolawole said the allegation of extortion of money from innocent Nigerians and a threat to national security preferred against the arrested and detained Peace Corps officials was not proved with any petition or any document from the purported victims of the Corps.
He also faulted the claims by the police that they acted on an intelligence report to invade the Peace Corps house, saying that, nothing was placed before the court to establish the claim.
The Judge held that, nothing incriminating was found in the Peace Corps house when a search was carried out on it by security agents.
He agreed with the counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) that the plaintiffs are entitled, under the law, to own moveable and unmovable properties and that, under no circumstances should any security agent deny them the opportunity to own properties as they did in their action on February 28, 2017.
“The Police has proved itself to be a major antagonist to the existence of Peace Corps of Nigeria with its claim that Section 214 of the 1999 constitution makes provision for only one Nigeria Police Force and that by that claim, it is beyond doubt that the police now see the Peace Corps as opponent that must be pulled out of existence”.
Justice Kolawole therefore ordered the Police to pay the sum of N12.5m to the unlawful detained Peace Corps officials so as to assuage the harassment and intimidation they suffered during the arrest.
He also ordered that the Peace Corps house sealed since February 18 be opened with immediate effect and that no attempt should be made to frustrate officials of the Peace Corps from accessing the building to carry out their legitimate duties as a registered organisation.
The Incooperated Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria had in March 2017 filed the suit against the police, Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, State Security Service (SSS), Director General of the SSS, and the Attorney General of the Federation, demanding the sum of N2bn as compensation for its officials, who were badly injured during g the invasion of the Peace Corps house and the violation of the fundamental rights to personal liberty in their arrest and detention without a valid court order.
They had in the suit prayed the court to compel the security agents to vacate the premises of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.
But the respondents claimed that they sealed off the Peace Corps house because it was being used to commit crime and engaging his men in paramilitary training of its officials.

Author: News Editor

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