A Federal High Court in Abuja Wednesday fixed July 6 for a judgment on the fundamental human rights enforcement suit brought by Peace Corps of Nigeria against the police and other security agencies for their arrest and detention on February 28 , 2017
The Peace Corps, in the suit filed by Kanu Agabi (SAN), is demanding N2bn as compensation for the embarrassment caused it by the arrest and detention of its personnel by security operatives.
The N2bn suit by the corps was instituted against the Police Force, Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, the DSS and its Director-General and the Attorney-General of the Federation. They are first to sixth respondents in the matter.
It is also asked the court to declare as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the arrest of the commandant of the Corps, Amb. Dickson Akoh and 47 other officers as well as the sealing of its headquarters in Abuja and offices in the 36 states.
Other reliefs sought by the corps include that the court should declare that it is entitled to fundamental rights to acquire and own properties, lawful assembly and freedom of movement.
This, according to the corps, is as guaranteed under Sections 34, 35, 40, 41, and 43 of the 1999 Constitution.
The corps also applied for an order compelling the respondents to unseal its headquarters and offices nationwide.
It also asked the court to order the respondents to release properties seized during their unlawful invasion of its office.
It prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further sealing its office and disrupting its activities, including its meetings and orientation of its members.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, counsel to Akoh, Agabi, raised some questions for determination
According to Agabi, the question for determination is whether the first applicant (Peace Corps) is a legitimate organisation or not.
“The respondents conceded that this is true but they are only concerned that the organisation is engaged in para military activities without substantiating the allegation.
“The primary objective of the organisation is to maintain discipline in the society. I submit that the respondents are unable to substantiate their allegations. I urge my lord to grant all the reliefs sought by the applicants”, Agabi submitted .
Arguing further, Agabi said exhibits attached to the proof of evidence was a police report which states the activities of the organisation were legal.
The exhibit marked KG A10 and Judgment of Justice A. Umar of Federal High Court of January 22 of 2010 msrked exhibit KG A13 are also proof that the organisation is a legal body.
“In all the judgments in favour of the applicants there has no been appeal”, Agabi stressed
Attached also, according to Agabi, in exhibit 15A and 15B is the letter of the Attorney General of the Federation asking the respondents to abide by the judgments.
“We are seeking the leave of the court therefore to allow the applicants to continue to do what they have been doing.
Counsel to first and second respondents, David Igbodo submitted that he had filed a counter motion in opposition to the application of the applicants.
“We urge this honourable court to dismiss the application. The affidavit of 90-count charge bordering on money laundering, training of militia and engaging in illegal activities, are pending before a high court.
“Their case is lacking in merit and of no consequencial order”, he said.
According to him, “the applicants made a lot of issues out of the judgment but the judgment says ” prayer one cannot be granted when a lawful organisation acts illegally.
“The court said only a body saddled with the responsibility to determine the legality of its action, can make such pronouncement. .
“What I am saying in effect is that we are not in dispute that Peace Corps is registered as an NGO.
“Nobody is disputing that. All the exhibits attached are not relevant in this issue. What we are saying is that the first applicant is operating outside its mandate.. Charges against it are already in another court that it is committing crime against the country”
Igbodo summed that the fact the PCN is registered in part C as NGO is not in dispute but if the NGO is found to be committing crimes, it has no immunity, it can be investigated by the police.
“We urge the court to dismiss the application as it is mere academic exercise . The NGO has been charged before a competent court of jurisdiction, it is the duty of the court to determine whether the applicants have committed offence, it is not the responsibility of the court to determine that”
Oyinkole Oshd, counsel to third to sixth respondents held that In view of Section 35 1c, the arrest and detention can’t be said to be unlawful having been made upon a reasonable suspicion of committing a crime.
“The detention of applicant did not exceed 24 hours therefor can’t be said to infringe on hus constitutional limit.
“The appellants has not shown that it is allowed to engage in recruitment, collection of fees from the public, training and wearing of uniform. We want you to note that the applicants have not exhibited a constitution that is duly registered with CAC to show their object it was registered for or allowed to carry out the above mandate.
“We submit that the fact that the first applicant is a registered entity does not mean it can not come up with criminal activities
After listening to the submissions, the trial Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole fixed July 6 for judgment.