"Relief 4 is granted and the respondents are ordered to publish an apology to the applicant in two national newspapers for violating his fundamental rights. The sum of N50 million is awarded against the respondents as general and exemplary damages," the judge said.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja presided over by Justice John Tsohoon has ordered the Nigeria Police Force, the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police FCT Command, to pay the sum of N50million and publish an apology in two national newspapers to popular musician and activist, Charles Oputa, better known as Charly Boy.
In the suit, filed on March 29, 2018 by Inibehe Effiong, his lawyer and human rights activist, the 67-year-old musician gave a graphic account of how policemen numbering more than 100 from the FCT Police Command invaded the Unity Fountain in Abuja on August 8, 2017 and attacked him and his group with tear-gas canisters, hot water cannons and wild police dogs during the 'Resume or Resign' protest when he led other activists to protest the prolonged absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from Nigeria on account of his medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
Charly Boy further narrated how the attack by the policemen was so severe that he collapsed in the process and was rushed to the hospital. He stated that the Police attacked them because of claims that their protest over the President’s absence, which had exceeded 90 days on the second day of their daily sit-out, had gone international and brought serious embarrassment to the country.
Delivering the judgment on Monday in the case marked as Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/343/2018 between Charles Oputa versus The Inspector General of Police & 2 Others, Justice Tsoho held that there was no evidence that miscreants invaded or stormed the premises of the protest as alleged by the Police.
On whether the applicant was entitled to staging the protest, the court held that protest is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided it is done peacefully; and that even if miscreants were on the scene to hijack the protest, the respondents possessed enough security measures to dislodge such persons and maintain law and order.
"The respondents (the Police) need not exercise an uncommon aggression and mayhem to wade off alleged miscreants," Justice Tsoho ruled.
The court also ordered a perpetual injunction against the respondents from violating the fundamental rights to dignity of the human person, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association.
Reacting to the judgment, Effiong described the judgment as a resounding victory for democracy, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country.
Also, Comrade Raphael Adebayo, National Secretary of the OurMumuDonDo Movement, in a statement noted that the judgment has raised the confidence of Nigerians in the judiciary.
"The OurMumuDonDo Movement wishes to express satisfaction over the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the unprovoked attack of the Police on its members during the ResumeOrResign Protest," he said. "This development is a sign that the Nigerian judiciary is indeed committed to upholding the supremacy of our country's Constitution."
The respondents were represented in the case by O.M. Atoyebi and M.D. Podos, while Inibehe Effiong along with S.M. Oyeghe represented Charly Boy.