Rights Violation: FCT High Court awards multi-million naira against Customs

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An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has awarded the sum of N11,050,000 as damages against the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) over the violation of the fundamental rights of Miss Helen Olorunda.

Justice Nkeonye Maha, in a judgment delivered on 5 February 2021 in Suit N0: FHC/ABJ/CS/491/2020 awarded the sum of N5 million as exemplary damage, N5 million as compensation for violation of the applicant’s fundamental right, N1 million as general compensation and N50,000 as the cost of filling the action against the Nigerian Customs and Augustine Chidi, a Deputy Comptroller General.

Olorunda, a businesswoman, had filed the action on 5 October 2020, after she was unlawfully detained and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by officials of the NCS at their headquarters in Abuja from 30 to 31 March 2020 over a petition written by one Musa Gokaru against D.C. Lawal Argungu. The petition was not addressed to the Customs or the Comptroller General.

She argued through her lawyer, O.D. Ogunniyi, Esq. that the action of the staff of the state institution in detaining her over a petition not written against her and referring to her as “a shameless prostitute and a criminal” violated her right to life and dignity of her person under sections 33, 34, and 46 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999.

The court held that the acts of the respondents are a gross abuse of power. ‘From Exhibit NCSB1 it is clear that this complaint shows allegation on hierarchy squabbles at the 1st respondent’s office, and nothing discloses an element of fraud against the applicant”.

“Nothing proves the fact that the act complained is not on reasonable suspicion that the applicant here has committed a crime within the purview of the respondent’s (Customs) mandate,” the judge said.

“The respondent must act within the confines of the law. The era of impunity is gone. I find and hold that there was no element of fraud disclosed to the 1st respondent by NCSB1 (Petition) requiring an invitation and detention of the applicant.”

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