The Akwa Ibom State High Court in Uyo has ruled that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Police Service Commission (PSC), and three others must pay N200 million in damages to Peace Ekom Robert, a housewife in Uyo, for her wrongful arrest and detention.
The judgment, delivered by Justice Ntong Ntong on Tuesday, stemmed from a case filed by Mrs. Ekom, a mother of two, seeking the enforcement of her fundamental human rights.
According to the details of the case, in March of the current year, Ifenyinwa Anthonia Olua approached Mrs. Ekom Robert, requesting assistance in connecting her with someone in Europe who could purchase euros and pay her in Naira. An amount equivalent to £55,000, totaling N42.9 million, was allegedly transferred to a Spanish account. Subsequently, the Spanish authorities, suspicious of potential illicit funds, imposed restrictions on the account, leading to Mrs. Ekom's arrest by the police.
The respondents in the case included the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Administration, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja (Mr. Babazango Ibrahim), DSP Yusuf Dauda of Anti-Homicide Section, Alagbon in Lagos, Inspector Celestina Ugbaja of Special Fraud Unit, Ikoyi, Lagos, and the Police Service Commission.
In the one-hour judgment, Justice Ntong Ntong noted that there was no evidence of the Inspector General of Police and other respondents challenging the applicant's claims. He criticized the police for disregarding the constitution, flouting court orders, and showing disrespect to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
The court also directed the Inspector General of Police and other respondents to return the N15 million allegedly collected from the applicant to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Abuja, pending the final determination of the criminal charge against Mrs. Ekom before the Federal High Court.
Justice Ntong emphasized that the police are not a debt recovery agency and have no authority to extort money from an individual before concluding an investigation or a court finding the person guilty.
Uwemedimo Nwoko, the applicant's counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, hailed the court as the last resort for the common man. However, Barr. Akebong Essien, counsel to the respondent, contended that reporting the matter to the police was not wrongful on their part.
As of the judgment date, Mrs. Ekom remained in police custody without a proper arraignment, despite the passage of several months since her initial arrest in March.