A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Gudu, Abuja, has held that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) lacked the powers to prevent or stop rallies or possessions held in respect of the abducted students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Justice Abubakar Talba, in a judgment yesterday, declared that the Public Order Act, Cap 382 Laws of Nigeria 1990, which the police purportedly relied on, “does not authorise men of the NPF to disrupt rallies or possession on the issue of the abducted Chibok girls.”
The judgment was on a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by a human rights activist and former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, challenging the disruption of the rally he led in Abuja in relation to the school girls abducted by Boko Haram on May 9.
The judge declared unconstitutional the arrest of, and assault on Melaye by men of the NPF during the May 9 rally in Abuja.
The suit, marked CV/1521/14, which had the Inspector General of Police (IG) and Commissioner of Police (CP), FCT Command as defendants, was not defended by the respondents.
“The arrest of the applicant and the threat to further arrest him in respect of rallies or possession is unlawful. The disruption of peaceful rallies and procession by agents of the first and second respondents is illegal and unconstitutional,” the judge declared.
The judge also held that since the respondents failed to file any counter process to the one filed by Melaye, they were deemed to have admitted the allegations made against them by the applicant.
He consequently ordered the IG and CP of FCT to “tender a written apology “ to the applicant as provided for under Section 35(6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The judge also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents and their agents from further “harassing, molesting,
intimidating, abducting, arresting, detaining and prosecuting the applicant in respect of peaceful rallies or procession in Abuja or any part of Nigeria.”
Justice Talba awarded N150,000 in damages and cost against the respondents and in favour of the applicant.
Melaye had sued the respondents shortly after he was arrested and molested by policemen during the May 9 rally in Abuja which he led to protest the federal government’s seeming inaction over the April 14 abduction of the Chibok girls.
In a supporting affidavit deposed to by his lawyer, Reuben Egwuaba, it was stated that “men of the NPF, under the instruction of the 1st and 2nd respondents came to the venue of the rallies to arrest the applicant and forcefully beat the applicant on ground that the rallies or possession should be suspended by the applicant and his group.