Court orders Police to pay Peace Corps N11.250m for unlawful arrest

An Abuja High Court has again ordered Police to pay the Peace Corps of Nigeria a sum of N11.250m over the unlawful arrest and detention of its men as well as illegal seizure of its properties in 2009. The
purported ban placed on the body by Police through a press statement in October, 2009 was also declared illegal, unlawful, and un-constitutional and was subsequently invalidated and set aside.
Justice Sylvanus Oriji handed down the order in Abuja while giving judgment in a suit instituted against the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation by the Incorporated
Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.

The legal action followed the unwarranted and un-provoked invasion of the head office of the Peace Corps by Police in October 2009 during which 15 different properties including vehicles and cash were carted away.
Justice Oriji in the judgment that lasted about three hours, said that Police acted in bad faith and in gross violation of the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps as a registered body and its members by the invasion without any serious reason.

The Judge held that from the totality of evidence before the court, there was nothing to suggest that the activities of the Peace Corps including the use of uniforms by its men constituted threat to national security of the nation as claimed by the Police.
Justice Oriji agreed with counsel to the Peace Corp Mr. Okechukwu Nweze that Police breached the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps men when they (Police) arrested them in Kogi State, moved them to Abuja and detained them for 29 days without trial or cogent reason.

The Court dismissed the claim of Police counsel Mr. Simon Lough that Police have power to arrest anybody on suspicion adding that there must be cogent suspicion before any Nigerian citizen can be arrested and detained within the period prescribed by law. Justice Oriji therefore granted a perpetual order of injunction restraining Police from further banning or disrupting the lawful activities of the Peace Corp as a legal entity.
The Police had in October 2009 invaded the head office of the Peace Corps at Gwarimpa in Abuja, destroyed some of its immovable properties and carted away properties worth millions of Naira including N900,000 cash salary for September salary of the workers.

Apparently acting on an unlawful letter from the National Security Adviser, the Police also arrested, molested and detained top officials of the corps. Reviewing the case, Justice Oriji agreed that Police
acted in bad faith because a former President of the country Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had in a letter praised and acknowledged the positive roles of the Peace Corps and its men to the general development of the country.

In the same vein, the Force Headquarters had in 2006 investigated the activities of the Peace Corps and gave it a clean bill of not having or engaging in any unlawful activities. Reacting to the court verdict, the National Commandant of the Peace Corps Ambassador Dickson Akoh described the judgement as another clear vindication that the Peace Corps is a lawful body doing legitimate activities in the country.
The National Commandant condemned the Police for not acting within the ambit of the law as demanded by natural justice, fair-play and the rule of law in the way his men were brutalized. Ambassador Akoh then called on President Goodluck Jonathan to call the Police to order so as to stop them from further denting the corporate image of the country or portraying it as a lawless nation.

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