Court awards N500, 000 against ESWAMA for human rights abuse
AN Enugu Federal High Court, presided over by Justice D.V. Agishi on Tuesday awarded N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira)costs against the Enugu State Waste Management Authority
(ESWAMA)over the torture, humiliation and unlawful detention of Miss Nma Ukonu.
Ukonu a Programme Officer with an Enugu based non-governmental organization, the South Saharan Social Development Organisation (SSSDO) had through her counsel Olu Omotayo sued the agency to court following grievous bodily injuries inflicted on her by some staff of the agency on the guise of enforcement of sanitation levy.
Some staff of the agency led by one Nnamani had on August 29, 2012 stormed the office of the organization to demand receipt of the waste management fees paid for three consecutive years.
Ukonu, who was in the office had told group that the Programme Manager, Mrs. Franca Nwoye was not available and was in possession of documents relating to everything in respect of the office.
The ESWAMA staff had insisted on taking her to their office which she refused and the refusal led to beating by the officials who later dragged her into their bus to their office where she was detained.
It was learned that Ukonu was released about eight hours later after the organization paid N56,000 demanded by the ESWAMA officials.
Ukonu had thereafter taken the agency to court asking that her arrest and detention as well as bodily injuries were not known to law.
She said that subjecting her to physical and psychological torture, constituted a flagrant violation of her fundamental rights, guaranteed under Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article 5, of the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and
was therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
She asked for N50 million as exemplary, punitive, aggravated, special and general damages against the agency.
Ruling on the matter, the trial judge held that the fact that ESWAMA officials were agents and workers of the Enugu-State government, did not justify their actions “in slapping, kicking, dragging and further ordering the detention of the applicant,
on the ground that the organization she works with has not paid waste management fee”
The Court held that the argument of the lawyer to ESWAMA, that the agency was acting under Section 28(1) of ESWAMA Law, Cap 75, of the Revised Law of Enugu State 2004, cannot justify the infringement.
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