Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A Federal High Court, Lagos, today, dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by a businessman, Chief John Momah, against the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and seven others.
The court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba, dismissed the businessman’s suit against the respondents for lacking in merit.
Apart from dismissing the businessman’s suit for lacking in merit, Justice Buba also awarded the cost of N250, 000. 00, against the plaintiff in favour of the first to fourth respondents in the suit.
Other respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1363/18, are: Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID) Alagbon-Ikoyi, Lagos, Assistant Commissioner, General Investigation, Superintendent Abiodun Bamgbose, an Investigating Police Officer (IPO), as first to fourth respondents
While Yaba Trading Associates Nigeria Limited, Okechukwu Ejikeme, Chief Chilotte Callistus and Emeka Chilotte are fifth to eight respondents.
The businessman in his suit filed by his lawyer, Moka Ebuka, had asked the court for a declaration that the business relationship he had with the fifth sixth and seventh Respondents is purely a civil matter that does not warrant the arrest, and further threat of arrest and detention of the applicant by the officers of the first, second and third Respondents.
He also asked the court to declare that his arrest and further threat of arrest and detention as regards the subject matter of this application is unlawful and unconstitutional as it violates his right to personal liberty as guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining all the Respondents, from arresting, threatening to arrest, detaining, harassing and prosecuting him with respect to the subject matter of this application.
And an order of award of N15 million as General Damages for his unlawful arrest, detention and threats of further Arrest and detention at the instigation of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth respondents.
However, the first to fourth respondents in a counters affidavit deposed to by Supol Bamgbose, and filed and argued by Barrister Morufu Animashaun, urged the court to dismiss the businessman’s suit for lacking in merit.
While also asked for N250, 000, 00 cost in favour of all the respondents against the applicant.
In the affidavit, the deponent stated that that he was the Investigating Police Officer who investigated criminal complaints and petition dated July 28, 2018, of conspiracy, forgery, stealing, and threat to life made by the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth respondents against the applicant.
He added that the petition was referred by the IGP through a referral letter dated dated July, 3, 2018 with Ref. No. CB;7000/|GP.SEC/ABJ/VOL.468/402 and another referral letter dated June 28, 2018 with Ref. No.CB:7000/X/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.466/8.
The deponent also averred that in the petition, the applicant, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Yaba Trading Association of Nigeria Limited, had sometimes on October 25, 1994, got a leasehold of properties situated at Railway Crossing, Yaba, with Plan number ES 5898 with Mr.Okechukwu Ejikeme and Chilotte Callistus, as directors.
He also stated that upon the expiration of the leasehold in 2016, the fifth Respondent in attempt at meeting the requirement of renewal of the leasehold with Railway Corporation, increased it Share Capital from N1,000,000 ( one million naira ) to N5 million and absorbed the applicant as its director.
It was further averred that upon inclusion of the applicant as one of the directors of the fifth respondent, the applicant undertook to underwrite N4.3 million worth of the allotted shares and by that singular act, the applicant become the Managing Director /Chief Executive Officer of the fifth respondent and as such an affidavit handing over the management of the fifth respondent to applicant was sworn to by seventh respondent, one of the fifth respondent’s directors having so agreed by resolution.
The applicant then undertook to renew the leasehold obtain necessary approvals and construct Shopping Complex with 25 percent to be retained by the respondent, while 75 per cent shall be retained.
” Rather than fulfill these undertakings, the applicant without obtaining necessary approvals, constructed the Shopping Complex, single handedly collected rents and fees from the occupiers without remittance of 25 per cent to other directors and through connivance with other impostors criminally forged signatures of other directors and appropriated to his own use a sum of N50 million realised from management of the complex “.
It was also stated that as a result of the above criminal acts perpetrated by the applicant, a petition was sent to the IGP by the sixty to eighth respondents. And that upon receipt of referral letters for investigation relating to criminal complaints of conspiracy, forgery, stealing and threats to life in the management and control of the 5th Respondent, invitation letters were sent to the petitioners and those against whom the allegations were made including the applicant.
It was also averred that on August 13, 2018, the sixth to eight respondents honoured Police invitation and volunteered their written statements in support of the criminal allegations against the applicant.
And that a Letter of Invitation to the applicant being the person against whom complaints were made and also invited the petitioners to make statements.
The police further averred that on August 2, 2018, the Applicant, John Momah of No 347, Old Ojo Road, Satellite Town Lagos, honoured the invitation and made statement with reference to allegation leveled against him by the respondents and was allowed on self recognisance without torture, intimidation or threats of detention.
The respondents said that the applicant having been allowed on self recognisance was then directed to report at the Office of the Commissioner of Police, Force CIID, Alagbon, Ikoyi, on August 3, 2018 for further interview/fact finding inquiry on criminal complaints of Conspiracy, Forgery, Stealing and Threat to Life made against him.
He also stated that contrary to the allegation that the applicant was threatened with arrest, detention and conviction on August 8, 2018, the truth is that immediately the applicant was allowed home on self recognisance on August 2, 2018, he became evasive and never report at the Office of the second respondent until a Fundamental Rights application was filed.
The police said the first to the fourth Respondents are empowered to investigate all crimes including crimes committed in the course of a contractual agreement. And that the Applicant’s Fundamental Rights had not been violated by the Respondents.
Delivering judgment on the businessman’s suit today, Justice Ibrahim Buba said, “I have gone through the processes before me as well as the submissions of counsels to the parties.
“Upon carefully perusal of all the processes, I found the applicant’s application to be lack in merit, as he cannot stop the police from carrying out its constitutional duty.
“Consequently, the applicant’s application is hereby dismissed. And a cost of N250, 000, 00 is hereby awarded against the applicant in favour of first to fourth respondents.