- January 13, 2023
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Category: Case Law Blog
The Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt Division, has awarded the sum of 200 Million Naira to a Nigerian lawyer, Owunari Samuel Taylor-Harry, against the Nigeria Police Force for the breach of his fundamental rights.
O. S. Taylor-Harry had commenced a fundamental rights action in Suit No. PHC/2064/FHR/2022 against the Nigeria Police Force sued as 1st Respondent and 8 others. From the facts which the Court believed to be true, the Police arrested and subsequently detained, assaulted and humiliated Taylor-Harry for three days – 28 January 2020 to 30 January 2020. This was at the instigation of one Chief Yom Esiso sued as 9th Respondent in the suit. The 2nd-8th Respondents are the Police Service Commission, the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Police Command, Adamu Abdullahi Elleman, Alex Udeze, Supol Musa and Muhammed Gimba (officers of the IGP Monitoring Unit), respectively.
In the Affidavit sworn by Taylor-Harry in support of his application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, he narrated that his unlawful arrest and detention was connected to a Notice to Quit which he issued on behalf of his client in the course of performing his duties as a legal practitioner. According to him, he was never invited by the Police before the Police visited his office in Port Harcourt on 28 January 2020. Without informing him of his ‘offence’, they grabbed, dragged and whisked him away like a lamb for sacrifice. He was treated like a common criminal, and was locked up in police cells both in Port Harcourt and later in Abuja. The officers involved made him endure the long road trip to Abuja against his wish and amidst the risks. It was until he got to the station that he was asked to make a statement concerning the Notice to Quit in question. This was when he got a hint of the reason for his arrest.
Taylor-Harry explained that it took the intervention of the Nigerian Bar Association before he was released on bail. He was later made to report to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
On 20 December 2022, the Court, in its Judgment, declared that the conduct of the Respondents was “manifestly unwarranted, an abuse of power, unconstitutional and a brazen breach of the fundamental rights of the Applicant”, Taylor-Harry.
The Court further restrained the Police and Chief Yom Esiso from “further arresting, detaining, inviting, threatening, harassing or molesting the Applicant over the issuance and service of the Notice to Quit on behalf of his client.”
It appears the Nigeria Police has become a tool for intimidation and oppression. As long as complainants are made to continue to finance the treatment of petitions submitted at most law enforcement agencies, intimidation and oppression will never end in Nigeria.