Neghi Inkiba, a presidential aspirant in the forthcoming Ijaw Youth Council election, has filed a N500 million lawsuit against the Bayelsa State government and the police.
Mr. Inkiba is asking the Federal High Court in Yenagoa to order the respondents to pay him N500 million as damages for his unlawful arrest, detention and torture.
In a motion filed by his lawyer, Ayei Okpa, Mr. Inkiba is also seeking an order directing the respondents to release him from detention as well as a declaration by the court that his continued detention and torture were unlawful. In addition, he wants the court to grant him bail and to restrain the respondents from further arresting him pending the determination of the merits of his case. The lawsuit states that Mr. Inkiba has been in police detention since June 19.
Justice Lambo Akande, who is presiding over the matter, ordered the police to either arraign the suspect or grant him bail unconditionally. He gave the police 48 hours to obey the order and warned them against disobeying the court.
In his ex-parte motion, Mr. Okpa told the court that his client was a victim of political harassment. He also accused the police of acting out the script of the state government.
According to the lawyer, the government and its agents were bent on stopping his client from contesting the presidential election of the IYC scheduled to hold in three weeks. He said his client was forced to languish in the “dingy, unkempt and smelly” cell of the police, adding that Mr. Inkiba’s health was deteriorating as he is held under “absolutely cruel and inhuman conditions.”
“The applicant is the leading aspirant in the forthcoming IYC elections and it is apparent that the respondents have cooked up the allegations against him in their desperate efforts to fabricate grounds upon which he can be unlawfully held back from contesting the election,” the lawyer alleged. He continued: “Prior to the arrest, the fourth respondent (Kenebai) has made several failed efforts to get him to step down in order for the fifth respondent’s (government’s) anointed candidate to carry the day.
“His arrest, detention and torture are a gross violation of his rights to personal liberty and dignity of the human person as enshrined in Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”
A copy of the lawsuit was made available to newsmen in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. In it, Mr. Inkiba said he had arrived at the police headquarters to honor an invitation by a police officer attached to the Security Intelligence and Investigation Bureau. He stated that he was immediately arrested and detained by the officer.
He said the officer who bundled him into the cell refused to disclose his identity and did not disclose the nature of the offence warranting Mr. Inkiba’s detention.
The plaintiff also alleged that the detaining officer and other police officers tortured him and forced him to sign a prepared statement, ignoring all his demands to be allowed to contact his lawyer.
He further alleged that he was forced under duress to admit that he was a “retired cult member” and friend to Ateke Tom, a former militant commander.
Among the respondents named in the suit are the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Colonel Bernard Kenebai (ret.), the special adviser on security to Governor Seriake Dickson, and the government of Bayelsa State.