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Court stops police from arresting firm’s directors over contract dispute

By Joseph Onyekwere
10 August 2022   |   4:01 am
A Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday restrained the Inspector-General of Police and all cops in Nigeria, from inviting or arresting directors and members of staff of JNC International Limited over a contract for the supply and installation of medical equipment.

Federal High Court

A Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday restrained the Inspector-General of Police and all cops in Nigeria, from inviting or arresting directors and members of staff of JNC International Limited over a contract for the supply and installation of medical equipment.

The order followed an ex-parte application filed and argued on behalf of the company and its directors by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.

Specifically, Justice Tijani Ringim directed all parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum before the filing of the case pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice.

Sued as respondents in the suit are the IGP, Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State, Rapid Response Squad, Ekiti State, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti and Aare Afe Babalola (SAN).

In the suit filed on August 8, 2022, the applicants are seeking among others a declaration that the 1st – 3rd respondents are not entitled to arrest, detain or in any other manner restrict the liberties of the 1st – 4th applicants, in flagrant violation of the 1st – 4th applicants’ fundamental rights guaranteed under Sections 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Articles 6 and 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

They also sought: “A declaration that the arrest and detention of the 1st and 2nd applicant on August 3, 2022, by the 1st – 3rd respondents, their agents, servants, officers or otherwise, in lieu or in place of director(s) of JNC International Limited, the 5th applicant, are unlawful, illegal and constitute a flagrant violation of the 1st and 2nd applicants’ fundamental rights guaranteed under the law and, therefore, should be unconstitutional, null and void.

“An injunction restraining the 1st – 3rd respondents, whether by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or otherwise howsoever from further arrest and detention of the 1st and 2nd applicants.

“An injunction restraining the 1st – 3rd respondents, whether by themselves, agents or servants or otherwise from invading the premises and property of the 5th applicant at 30, Raymond Njoku Street, Off Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, on the behest of the 4th – 5th respondents,” among other prayers.

The applicants asked for N1 billion as general, aggravated, special and exceptional damages against the respondents, jointly and/ or severally for the violation of their fundamental rights, as well as N100 million against the 4th – 5th respondents being the cost of filing and prosecuting the suit.

In a 74-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the Managing Director of JNC International, Mrs. Clare Omatseye, she narrated how Afe Babalola University approached the company for the supply and installation of medical equipment for use of the College of Medicine of the university and the said equipment was imported and installed but because the university could not guarantee constant electricity supply to power it, an issue of proper maintenance arose, which the company rose up to and resolved, even at great costs to it.

She stated further that in line with the sale agreement between the parties, Aare Babalola (SAN) through his law firm gave notice to commence arbitration and an arbitrator was indeed appointed.

However, the issues were subsequently resolved and the arbitration was called off.

The company, she swore was shocked to receive an invitation letter from the Rapid Response Squad of the Ekiti State Police Command at the instigation of the university, leading to the forceful invasion of the company’s premises by policemen and officers of the university on August 3, 2022 in commando style, whereupon two members of staff of the company were forcefully driven away from Lagos to Ekiti in the dead of the night.

On their way to Ekiti, the police convoy ran into armed robbers around 2am, resulting in a fierce shootout and the two members of staff of the company were caught in the fire power and all pleas to allow them to lodge in a hotel in Osun State were rebuffed and they were forcefully driven to Ekiti State and kept in custody at the instigation of the University and Aare Babalola (SAN).

The police in Ekiti kept the members of staff of the company in custody as a ransom for the appearance of directors of the company and they were told that they would only be released upon the directives of Aare Afe Babalola, until late Saturday August 6, 2022 when they were eventually released.

The company expressed the fear that unless the court intervenes urgently the police will still carry out its threat of invading the office of the company and may arrest and detain its directors upon a purely civil matter for which Aare Babalola (SAN) himself had previously initiated arbitration proceedings.

The case was subsequently adjourned to August 18, 2022 for hearing of the motion on notice.