Court awards N100m damages against police
Justice Mohammed Idris said the police are to be held responsible for the death of the deceased who was arrested following a petition against her by the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Adeseyi Sijuwade on April 25, 2014 and was never granted bail until she died on May 16, 2014 under custody.
As a result, the daughter of the deceased, Miss Amaka Onyeabo, filed the action seeking five reliefs among which is N1billion general and aggravated damages for breach of the deceased fundamental rights and the painful and premature death of the applicant’s mother.
Respondents in the suit were Inspector General of Police (IGP), Commissioner of Police (CP) and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).
Justice Idris, in his decision said: “No plausible explanation of the events leading to the death of the deceased has been made by the police. If at all the deceased was taken to the hospital till her death, at what point was she taken to the hospital and what caused her death? Where are the medical reports and/or records?
“The first respondent is being economical with the truth. I hold the police responsible for the death of the deceased and the applicant is entitled to some reliefs.
“The sum of N100 million is however hereby awarded as aggravated damages against the respondents for the premature death of the deceased.”
The judge held that it is the policy of the law that accused persons are guaranteed their life and in fact good health so that they can stand trial.
According to him, the mere fact that the police knew very clearly about the condition of the deceased, that she was hypertensive, was sufficient ground and caveat for them to be respectful of the rule of law and protection of life by granting her bail.
“It is not in doubt that the 1999 CFRN and the African Charter have drilled home the sacrosanctity and inviolability of human life which the applicant’s mother was entitled to.
“The position of the respondent is outrageous to common sense. The deceased with the so-called known hypertensive condition was 68 years old and it appears she had been managing her health in the most prudent manner with relevant medical support and care and access to qualitative drugs.
“Notwithstanding their self avowed knowledge of this fact, the respondents subject her to a very traumatic and prolonged and unlawful detention without option of bail and even proper access to her lawyers as exhibit A5 in the further affidavit and other evidence adduced before the court.
“It must be understood that the right to life is recognised in most jurisdictions including this jurisdiction as the most fundamental of all human rights or a supreme right and a right basic to all human rights.
“The duty of the state to protect life includes the taking of positive steps to protect the live of persons within its jurisdiction in certain conditions such as detained prisoners and patients in hospitals. The duty extends to the provision of health-care necessary to save life,” he ruled.
The judge explained further that the state has a positive obligation to protect the lives of persons held in prison or police custody. “Where an individual is taken into police custody in good health but is later dead, it is incumbent on the state to provide a plausible explanation of the events leading to her death failing which the authority must be held responsible,” Justice Idris declared.