Court Awards N5m Compensation to Akwa Ibom Journalist Against Nigerian Police

An Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area has ordered the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar and Inspector Patrick Edet of Police Zonal Headquarters, Calabar to pay a Journalist, Edet Okpo, N5m as compensation for his wrongful arrest and unconstitutional detention for seven days.

The Court gave the order in its judgement delivered by Justice Okon Okon in a case of enforcement of fundamental rights filed by the Applicant, Edet Okpo.

Joined in the suit are, Commodore Emmanuel Effedua, the Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (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 to the Journalist the sum of N1,995,000, being the money collected from him without lawful occasion while he was in their custody.

“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 Respondents informed him of a petition, 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 Court stated.

Justice Okon said “while in the custody of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, the Applicant said the 2nd Respondent led him to UBA, Aka Road Branch, Uyo, where he was forced to withdraw N2m and handed over to the 2nd Respondent.”

The Court added that the wife of the Journalist said she visited her husband while in detention in Uyo and later in Calabar to give him food, clothes and drugs but she was denied access to her husband.

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 as his petition. 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 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.
In 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 17/7/2020.

Justice Okon held that “by even admitting that the Applicant was charged and he made 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.”

Wisdom Bassey

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