A Benin High Court on Tuesday, awarded the sum of N2.52million in damages against the police authorities for detaining in custody seven men as suspects without trial for over two weeks.
The police had arrested Wilfred Ogbewe, 52, Igbinobono Collins, 26, Salami Osayomore, 25, Odion Osayande, 23, Morgan Uwanboe, 47, Ifeoluwa Oladele, 36, and Agbonrere Festus, 25 over alleged invasion of the State House of Assembly premises in Benin on Aug. 6.
According to the police, the alleged invasion of the state assembly by the men was in a manner that caused breach of peace.
Delivering judgment in the application for Enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights, filed by Mr. Matthias Obayuwana, their Counsel, Justice Efe Ikponmwoba held that the arrest and detention of the men was illegal.
Justice Ikponmwoba said that the police arrested the claimants at the premises of the Edo House of Assembly on Aug. 6, detained them at the State Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D) for four days and later transferred them to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
She said that the men were further detained for another two weeks without being arraigned before a competent court of jurisdiction.
Justice Ikponmwoba said that though the police could arrest a suspect on grounds of reasonable suspicion of committing an offence, such suspect must be brought before a competent court within the jurisdiction.
She said failure to do so, amounted to a gross violation of the fundamental human rights of the claimants.
The court observed that the claimants had made statements on the date they were arrested to the effect that they were members of the State Vigilante group who were deployed to the premises of the State House of assembly to protect government’s facilities.
Ikponmwoba said that the police never investigated the claims, more so, there was no need to have transferred them to Abuja, even as they were, at no time charged to court for the offence of illegal possession of fire arms they allegedly committed.
The court, however, struck out the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 5, Benin, for being wrongly joined in the suit.
Ikponmwoba subsequently awarded the sum N350,000 damages in favour of each of the seven suspects against the police.
The sum of N10,000 was also awarded against the police in favour of each of the seven suspects.
It would be recalled that the court had on Monday admitted the seven suspects to bail in the sum of N500,000 each with a surety each in like sum.