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Victory for Igboho as court awards N20b damages against FG

• Afenifere, YCE, Yoruba Ronu, Hail Judgment
An Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan, yesterday, granted a relief sought by the Yoruba Nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a Sunday Igboho and ordered the Federal Government to pay him N20 billion for breaching his fundamental rights.

The court also dismissed an application filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, challenging its jurisdiction to hear allegations against Federal Government agencies.

Igboho had sued the AGF, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the director of the DSS in Oyo State, demanding N500 billion in damages over the raid on his Ibadan home on July 1, this year.

He also sought an order of the court directing the respondents to return all the items seized from his house.

He listed the items to include N2 million cash, travel documents, gold jewelry, wristwatches, two mobile phones and other items yet unknown but which were allegedly carted away by the DSS. Two persons were said to have been killed while 12 others were arrested following the raid.

Counsel to the AGF, Abubakar Abdullahi, had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of a state High Court to hear matters pertaining to the activities of the federal agencies.

However, delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Justice Ladiran Akintola, declared that the raid carried out by the Department of State Service (DSS) on Igboho’s residence in Ibadan was illegal.

Citing several judgments by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal with regard to the jurisdiction of the state High Court to hear such cases, Justice Akintola ruled that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

He declared that the invasion of the house of the applicant violated his fundamental human rights as stipulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

“Unfortunately, this court is not a Father Christmas and cannot award the sum of N500 billion as requested by the applicant, but the court retrained the respondent from arresting or harassing the applicant.

“He has right to his free movement as contained in Section 35.1 (a)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” he ruled.

Justice Akintola also said that if the identities of the individual operatives of the DSS were determined, they would have been liable to pay the damages and not the Federal Government.

Meanwhile, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum (YRLP) both commended the judgment, saying it would serve as a deterrent to power monger security officers whose trait was to abuse authority and violate the fundamental human rights of citizens.

In separate reactions to the judgment, General Secretary, YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said it was absolutely unfortunate that blood tasty security officials raided Igboho’s house in the dead of the night especially when no charges had been made against him.

“Before then, Igboho’s protests were peaceful. There was no justification for DSS officials to have raided his house, destroyed properties and even murdered innocent lives,” Olajide said.

He stated that aside from the fine, the Federal Government should take a step further to investigate the officers that raided the house.

President of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, said the judgment was a confirmation that the action of the DSS was not only rascally but also illegal and unlawful.

He said it would serve as a deterrent to other security agents not to trample on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians. “I salute the courage of the judge and as well congratulate Igboho,” he said.

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, said the verdict has “once again established the court of law as the place to run to when one’s rights are infringed upon.”

According to him, “there are various layers of the verdict that we must pay proper attention.”

Ajayi added: “Firstly, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation needs to be reminded that we are running a federation. As such, a citizen has a right to seek redress in a State High Court when his or her rights are violated. If it is only the Federal High Court that can entertain cases involving federal agencies, at least two jeopardies would be dangling on the heads of the citizens. The first is that the spirit of our Constitution, which underlines federalism, would be under constant attacks.

“The second is that impunity would be institutionalised as federal agencies would be committing atrocities with the mindset of being protected by federal courts since they are also federal agencies.”

Ajayi lauded Justice Akintola for reaffirming citizens’ right to liberty as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.

He called on the Federal Government and the DSS not only to respect the judgment but to also comply with it by paying the ₦20 billion awarded as well as stopping the harassment of Sunday Adeyemo Igboho and his associates.

He also urged governments at all levels to see the judgment as a wake up call on them to always respect the rights of Nigerians.