A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Monday ordered the immediate release of a driver, Jones Ofori, also known as James Ofori, who has been in prison custody since 2013 without trial.
The court also ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to pay the driver the sum of N10 million, as damages for his unlawful arrest and illegal detention.
Justice Sule Hassan, who presided over the court, made the release order, while delivering judgment in an enforcement of fundamental rights suit filed by the driver through his lawyer, Adewale A. Fadipe.
Joined as respondents in the suit are: the Federal Government of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Deputy-Controller of Prisons (DCP).
Ofori, in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/887/18, has asked the court for a declaration that his arrest and detention for two weeks and a week at Ajiwe Police Station and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Ikeja respectively is illegal and constitutes an infringement of his fundamental rights to personal liberty as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and a declaration that his continued imprisonment without trial constitutes an infringement of his freedom to personal liberty as guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
Ofori also asked the court for an order for his immediate release from the prison custody, and a court order that he should be produced before the court.
He further asked the court to award the sum of N50 million in his favour, for his unlawful arrest, detention and continued detention.
Ofori in an affidavit deposed to by Oguntuwase Olatunde, a lawyer in the Law firm of Wale Fadipe and Co, averred that sometimes in the year 2013, he was employed by one Mr. Ikechukwu to be driving a car for commercial purpose and he was delivering the sum of N350, 000.00, on daily basis.
He stated that on November 14, 2013, at about 9p.m, after closing for the day, he parked the car at a general car park around his house in Ajah, Lagos and on November 14, at about 6 a.m on getting to where the car was parked in order to clean it and get ready for the day’s work, he discovered that the car was missing.
The deponent stated that upon discovering that the car was missing, he put a call to the said Ikechukwy, who joined him to Ajiwe Police Station and on getting to the Police Station, he was asked some questions by the police officers on duty, while the Investigative Police Officer (IPO) told him that he has to be detained while the investigation is ongoing.
He also stated that after being detained for two weeks in Ajiwe Police Station, Ajah, he was transferred to SARS Ikeja, where he was detained for another one week before he was arraigned before Magistrate Court 17, Ikeja, on December 2013, on charges of armed robbery which he knew nothing about. And that he has since been remanded in prison custody without any further trial. He therefore urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought.
The respondents filed counter affidavits to the applicant’s application but it was not served on the applicant.
Delivering judgment in the suit Justice Hassan, said he noted that the respondents filed counter affidavit to the suit but there is no prove of service of the counter affidavit on the applicant in the court file.
The respondents never appeared before the court to argue their counter affidavit.
The judge said with this development he is therefore constrained to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant.
Consequently, Justice Hassan while declaring the arrest and detention of the applicant as Illegal and unlawful, ordered the Deputy-Controller of Prisons, to immediately release the applicant (Jones Ofori) from detention.
The judge also awarded the cost of N10 million damages against the third respondent, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), for the unlawful arrest and detention of the driver.