Saturday, 30th September 2023

Court refuses to stop police from arresting businessman

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
30 May 2023   |   1:29 am
Justice D.T Olatokun of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja has refused to restrain the Nigerian Police from further arresting a businessman, Mathew Omosigho over allegation of obtaining by false pretence.

Orders it to pay applicant N100k for seizing his car

Justice D.T Olatokun of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja has refused to restrain the Nigerian Police from further arresting a businessman, Mathew Omosigho over allegation of obtaining by false pretence.

However, the court ordered the police to release his vehicle, a Toyota-Camry Saloon Car with registration number SMK366GS, which was unlawfully seized by the 2nd respondent.

The judge gave the verdict while delivering judgment in the fundamental rights suit marked no ID/12056/MFHR/2021 filed by Omosigho asking the court to restrain the police from further arresting or harassing him.

The respondents are the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Force CID, Alagbon); Mr. Sunday Uchu; Commissioner of Police Lagos State; Inspector Priscillia Ozello and Mr. Ese Osahon as first to fifth respondents respectively.

He had prayed the court to declare that he was illegally arrested on instruction of 5th respondents over a clear and unmistaken civil transaction between 5th respondent and one Mr Solomon Amos, a car dealer.

He stated that his arrest was causing disruption of his business activities, and prayed the court for, “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents jointly and severally, their agents, privies, from further arrest, detention, torture, harassment, intimidation, or infringing on or violation, or threatening the applicant’s rights to life, personal liberty, freedom of movement, dignity and respect of his person.”

Among other prayers, the applicant asked for “an order of public apology and payment of N5,000,000 by the respondents, jointly and severally, as general damages, exemplary and/or aggravated damages, for the wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional violation of applicant rights as enshrined under, Sections 33, 34, 35,36, 41 and 44 respectively of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).”

A counter affidavit filed by respondent’s counsel, Mr. Moruf Animashaun had prayed the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety. Animashaun had told the court that the police only acted on criminal allegation levelled against the applicant (Omosigho) by the the fifth respondent, Mr. Ese Osahon.

Sunday Ochu, in a nine paragraph counter affidavit stated that Omosigho’s fundamental rights were never in any way infringed upon. He averred that, “at the preliminary stage of investigation conducted by the 4th respondent, there was a prima facie case of obtaining by false pretence, stealing and threat to life and which was a bailable offence as the applicant was granted an administrative bail on the same day he was arrested by the 4th respondent, but couldn’t perfect his bail until the second day being 1st day of September, 2021.”

Animashaun told the court that the applicant having granted administrative bail, refused, neglected and jumped bail till date and his whereabouts is unknown to enable us the police conclude investigation, hence he filed the suit to foist a helpless situation in the possible arrest and prosecution for his criminal act of obtaining by false pretence.

The defendant’s counsel narrated to the court that Osahon, a businessman based in America petitioned the police stating how he gave two cars to the applicant to sell for him, but he converted the money to his use and started threatening him.

“Sometimes in February 2021, Mr. Omosigho who introduced himself as a clearing and forwarding agent, car dealer, I handed over my two cars, Infinity FX Jeep and Toyota 4runner Jeep valued at N9,000,000 for him to sell and I left the country.
“Omosigho sold the cars and converted the proceeds to his own personal use and relocated to an unknown destination.

“I returned back to the country on July 14, 2021 and put a call to the said Omosigho, only for him to threaten me that he is going to wipe out my life and that of my family if I dare demand for my money or call him anymore,” he said.

Animashaun argued that the applicant wanted to unduly use court to interfere in the proper investigation against him, adding that the police had not concluded the investigation before he jumped bail.

While delivering judgment, Justice Olatokun held that police did not breach his right by inviting him, obtained statement from him and granted him bail but he couldn’t perfect his bail same day he was invited and released.

“The law remains trite, he who asserts must prove. It is not in contention that the petitioner handed over two vehicles to the applicant for sale. The arrest and detention of the applicant was the consequence of the petition.

“First respondent established in the evaluation of fact placed before the court. Section 4 of the Police Act states the duty of police, among other protection of lives and properties.. .

“The court finds that the respondents upon preliminary investigation were not in violation of his rights. Exhibits are a combination of two documents where reference is made. It follows therefore, the applicant fails in this assertion,” the court declared.

The court further held that the allegation that his car was seized, was not denied. The salon car belongs to the applicant. The Court therefore awarded N100,000 against the first to fourth respondents.