A High Court sitting in Ogidi, Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State has ordered some police operatives attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to pay the sum of N5 million as compensation to an Onitsha business man, Ugochukwu Oraefo, over alleged extortion, illegal arrest, unlawful detention and torture.
Oraefo was sometime in 2018 whisked away from his factory by men of the SARS to their office in Awkuzu, where he was unlawfully detained, subjected to excruciating torture and extorted the sum of N6 million as ransom. But Oraefo through his lawyer, Justus Ijeoma, the Executive Director of International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation (I-REF), instituted a fundamental rights enforcement action against the respondents.
The respondents in the suit marked “HID/MISC/ 129/2018 were Commissioner of Police; SP Sunday Okpe, immediate retired Officer in Charge of SARS, Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Awkuzu; DSP Elias, Commander of SARS, NPF, Neni; Commander of Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) NPF, Ogidi, and Sgt. Osmond Tagbo, Police officer attached to SARS, Neni office.
The plaintiff had prayed the court to award N100 million against the respondents jointly as compensation for the unlawful detention, torture and other breaches of his fundamental rights.
The plaintiff also prayed the court to direct the respondents to tender a written apology, which would be published in a very conspicuous page in two daily national newspapers.
Justice E.S Nri-Eze in his judgment held that the respondents failed to prove that the arrest, detention and torture of the applicant were justified in law.
The Judge said: “I hold that applicant’s fundamental rights were grossly abused and violated when the respondents subjected him to such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. “It was wrong, unconscionable and I dare to say a gross abuse of office for the respondents to subject the applicant to such inhuman treatment merely to intimidate and extort such huge amount of money from the applicant.
“I award the sum of N5 million against the respondents jointly or severally as exemplary and /or aggravated damages for the unlawful violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.”