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Torture: Appeal Court Upholds Judgement Against Enugu Agency

From Ignatius Okpara, Enugu

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The Court of Appeal, sitting in Enugu, South- East Nigeria, has dismissed the appeal filed by the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA).

 Recall that in 24th February 2015, the Federal High Court, Enugu, presided over by Justice D.V. Agishi had given judgment against the agency over the torture, humiliation, dehumanization and unlawful detention of one, Miss Nma Ukonu.

Dissatisfied with the judgement, the state government Agency appealed against the judgement of the Federal High Court.

However, the three man panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal presided over by Honorable Justice Ignatius Agube, on Wednesday dismissed the appeal filed by the  agency, thereby affirming the decision of the Federal High court which awarded N500, 000 (five hundred thousand naira against the agency as damages to the Applicant.)

African examiner reports that Miss Ukonu, a Programme Officer with an Enugu based Nongovernmental organization, South Saharan Social Development Organization, SSSDO, had through her counsel Olu Omotayo (Esq) filed a suit against (ESWAMA) and its Director Mrs. Chinyere Ogaukwu and her Assistant Mr. Nnamani in Suit No. FHC/ EN/ M/ 133/2012 over the ill treatment meted against the NGO’s Staff.

Omotayo, had on her behalf prayed the court for the following reliefs, a declaration  that the act of the 1st and 2nd respondent and other agents of the 3rd respondent in inflicting grievous bodily injuries on the applicant by hitting her with unidentified objects and fistic blows on the head and all over his body when they forcefully took her away from her office, “South Saharan Social Development Organisation”, No. 55, Chime Avenue, Enugu 29th August 2012, on the ground that her office had not paid certain fee to the 3rd respondent  constitutes a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.

According to him, the applicant’s rights guaranteed under sections 34 and 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Articles 5 & 6 of the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

He equally sorts for a declaration that the arrest and detention of the applicant for over 8 hours by the 1st and 2nd respondents and other agents of the 3rd respondent at the 3rd respondents premises at No. 7, Ridgeway, GRA, State Secretariat complex, Enugu without her committing any offence known to law, thereby subjecting the applicant to physical and psychological torture, constitutes a flagrant violation of the applicants’ fundamental rights, guaranteed under section 34 of the

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article 5, of the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

The Applicant’s lawyer also asked for “N50 Million Naira being exemplary, punitive, aggravated, special and general damages against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents for their infringement of the applicants’ constitutional and fundamental rights.

In her judgement, the trial judge of the Federal High Court had held that she agreed with  Omotayo on the ground that for the fact that ESWAMA officials are agents and workers of the Enugu-State government, did not justify their actions in slapping, kicking, dragging and further ordering the detention of the applicant, because the organization she works with has not paid waste management fee.

The court further held that the argument of the lawyer to ESWAMA, that the agency was acting under Section 28 (1) of ESWAMA Law, Cap 75, of the Revised Law of Enugu State 2004, cannot justify the infringement.

The court agreed that the acts of deprivation, torture, intimidation and unlawful detention and inhuman treatment meted on Miss Miss Ukonu, without her committing any offence known to the law constitute a grave violation of her fundamental rights.

It equally  referred to the case NKPA V. NKPUME (2001) 6 NWLR (PT. 710) 543, at P.560, paras F-H. and reechoed what the Court of Appeal stated in the case that “the Courts will frown upon any manifestation of arbitrary power assumed by anyone over the life or the property of another even if that other is suspected of having breached some law or regulation”.

The court therefore, held that Miss. Ukonu, is entitled to damages and awarded damages of Five hundred thousand Naira (N500,000 Naira) against ESWAMA and its two officials joined in the suit.


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