Cross River Court Award N1 Million Damage Against Air Force Over Magistrate’s Human Rights Violation

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The Federal High Court of Nigeria sitting in Calabar (Court 2) and presided over by Justice Rosemary Dugbo has awarded damages of N1 million only against the Nigerian Air Force over an alleged case of human rights violation.

The Applicant in the case, Eno Iyamba Esq. who is a serving Magistrate in the Cross River State Judiciary had dragged the Nigerian Air Force to Court alleging violation of his fundamental rights.

The case which was filed on Tuesday 17th August, 2021 in Suit No. FHC/CA/FHR/63/2021 named the Nigerian Air Force and the Chief of Air Staff as 1st and 2nd respondents respectively. Also Airman Mbu and Airman Gala, both from the 305 Special Mobility Group, Nigerian Air Force, Calabar were named as the 3rd and 4th respondents respectively.

According to the court processes made available to CrossRiverWatch, the case of the applicant is that on the fateful evening of Friday 19th March, 2021 at about 8:30pm he invited his personal physician to his home at Essien Town, Calabar to help attend to a medical emergency involving his wife. The applicant’s wife was said to have suffered from diarrhoea leading to dehydration and general bodily weakness. After stabilizing the situation, all efforts by the Doctor to secure a Bolt Drive (an online transport service) back to his home were unsuccessful. This compelled the applicant to offer to drop the Doctor at his Satellite Town residence.

At about 10:30pm when the applicant drove alongside his Doctor and got to a military checkpoint at UNICAL Hotel Road by Victory Way Junction, personnel and agents of the respondents from the 305 Special Mobility Group, Nigerian Air Force arrested, detained, tortured, dehumanized and brutalized the applicant by making him to roll on bare ground, slapped him severally and in the process perforated his ear drums thereby causing him some hearing impairment. 

That the personnel rebuffed all explanations from the Doctor to the effect that he was returning from a medical emergency. Again, this is notwithstanding that the applicant properly identified himself as a serving Magistrate and showed his Identity Card (a situation that further infuriated the personnel) even as he drove on his official government plate number. The personnel alleged that the applicant was stubborn for driving during purported curfew hours.

The applicant was later admitted as an outdoor patient at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), where he received medical examination and treatment for about two weeks at ENT Clinic and the Ophthalmology Clinic.

It is also the case of the applicant that following the unwarranted brutality and dehumanisation of his person by the respondents and their agents, he consulted his solicitor who promptly wrote to the respondents on Monday 22nd March, 2021 asking that the personnel involved be disciplined and brought to book. Upon receipt of the complaint, the respondents reached out to the applicant via phone call from their Head of Legal Unit (305 Special Mobility Group, Nigerian Air Force, Calabar) to the applicant’s solicitor whereby a meeting was scheduled.

At the said meeting which was held on Monday 19th April, 2021 at about 4pm, the respondents persuaded the applicant from pressing any charges against them and promised to take necessary disciplinary measures against their identified personnel and communicate the same in writing to the applicant as well as bear the cost of his medical expenses. But that no action whatsoever was taken by the respondents, instead they became bent on shielding and covering up the said erring personnel.

The applicant therefore sought seven reliefs from the Court.

Delivering judgment in the case on Friday 1st July, 2022 the Court deprecated the actions of the respondents and stated that security agencies in Nigeria are enjoined by law to protect and not abuse the rights of the citizens. That the actions of the respondents which are not denied, are unfortunate and condemnable. The Court proceeded to award general damages of N1 million only in favour of the applicant.

Speaking with Counsel for the applicant, James Ibor, Esq. he lamented the failure of the Hon. Judge to pronounce on other reliefs sought by the applicant including special damages (medical expenses incurred) as well as the claim for written public apology as provided by law, and noted that these are grave errors that may necessitate an appeal against the judgment.

In a chat with the applicant who was personally present in Court, he stated that he was satisfied that justice has been served in the case. “The main essence was to get justice and correct the rascality of the respondents which is now becoming a common occurrence. I am however disappointed at the paltry sum awarded by the Honorable Court. I came to Court this morning in high spirits hoping to get a befitting birthday present from the Court. But I’m disappointed because I doubt if the paltry sum could ever deter a further occurrence. I intend to meet with my lawyers to review this outcome,” he stated.

The respondents are yet to respond to the judgment as at press time.

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