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Appeal court upholds judgment against firm, police

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The Court of Appeal, Owerri has upheld the judgment delivered by Imo State High Court against a multinational company, Julius Berger Nig. Plc and the Nigeria Police on the enforcement right of a Lagos based human right crusader, Mr. Emeka Ozoani who was illegally declared wanted by the police.

The Imo State High Court had on February 2013 in a judgment held that police had grossly violated the fundamental rights of Mr. Ozoani, a lawyer, for declaring him ‘category A wanted person’ published in Thisday Newspaper of September 4, 2012.

Following the publication, the lawyer filed the suit against the Inspector General of Police, the Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 9 Umuahia, ASP P.S. Njoku, Prosecuting officer in charge of OW/373c/2011 Zone 9, Umuahia, Peter Ogunyanwo, DCP Zone 9 Umuahia and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc as 1st to 5th respondents respectively.

In the suit marked HOW/654/2012, Ozoani asked the court for enforcement of his fundamental right, an order to set aside the declaration of the applicant as a ‘category A wanted person’ by respondents, an order of perpetual injunction restraining and direction the respondents to jointly and severally tender apology to the applicant and also claimed damages of N50 billion for the unlawful violation of his fundamental rights.

Prior to the suit, the police had arrested, manhandled and assaulted the lawyer in the court premises over allegation of forgery in the case of How/581/2007, Mrs Philoma Ugo V. Julius Berger (Nigeria) Plc wherein he appeared as a counsel to Ugo.

The court had in the judgment held that police went beyond the scope of their duties by falsely and wrongly arresting and battering persons, then becoming culpable of criminal acts.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, Julius Berger Nig. Plc and the Nigeria Police (respondents) proceeded to the Court of Appeal challenging the judgment. Also, Ozoani thereafter cross-appealed on the cost awarded in his favour.

The three panel of justices comprising, Rapheal Chikwe Agbo, Ayobode O. Lokulo-Sodipe and Rita Nosakhare Pemu upheld the high court judgment and resolved the seven issued raised in favour of 2nd respondent (Ozoani).

“In the circumstances, I hereby award the sum of N30 million to the respondent instead of N25million awarded by the court below. The cross appeal succeed in part and I so order. N100, 000 cost in favour of 5th respondent/cross appellant,” Justice Pemu held, while delivering the lead judgment.


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