By Olalekan Awojodu
A Federal High Court in Abuja Monday awarded the sum of N10.6 million damages against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for unlawfully blocking the highway in front of its Corporate Headquarters in Abuja.
The incidence allegedly led to a ghastly motor accident.
The amount was awarded in favour of a veteran journalist, His Royal Highness, Eze Geo Anika, whose Peugeot 406 with registration number DP 41 EKY was damaged beyond repairs in 2012 as a result of the unlawful blockage.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted against the NNPC, Justice Babatunde Quadiri agreed with the plaintiff that the NNPC was negligent in blocking the highway without road signs as required by law.
The Judge held that the evidence of the witnesses to the monarch that concrete barriers were placed on the highway by the NNPC to avert attack from Boko Haram terrorists were not faulted.
Justice Quadri further held that the claims of the plaintiff regarding the accident and the documents tendered to support his claims were not controverted by the NNPC or its witnesses.
The Judge rejected the claim of the NNPC that the Federal government through the National Security Adviser NSA, was responsible for the placing of the concrete barriers around the NNPC towers without road signs, adding that throughout the proceedings no single witness was invited to substantiate the claim.
Justice Quadri further rejected another claim by the NNPC that recklessness and over speeding on the part of the plaintiff was responsible for the accident.
The Judge said that the totality of evidence from the side of the police indicated that the accident was caused along with four others by the unlawful placement of concrete barriers on the road the same day.
The Judge therefore awarded N5.1 million in favour of the Eze as the cost of damaged vehicle, another N5 million as special damages while N500,000 was granted as the cost of litigation.
The veteran journalist had dragged the NNPC to court for illegally blocking the highways within its multi billion Naira Towers in Abuja without notifications or road signs or warnings. .
The traditional ruler in the suit instituted on his behalf by his counsel Mr Mr Malachy Nwekpe had prayed the court to compel the NNPC to pay him a sum of N50m as damages for allegedly causing him a fatal accident.
In an amended statement of claims, the veteran broadcaster sought N44.im as special damages, N5.1m as cost of his damaged car and another N.5m as cost of prosecuting his case against the NNPC.
In the claims, the former FRCN Judicial Editor wanted the Court to hold the NNPC responsible for the fatal accident as a result of an alleged acts of utter negligence and disregard to highway control.
In his statement of claim, the veteran broadcaster claimed that on April 1, 2012 he drove on the highway in front of the NNPC towers to his Radio House office without any form of concrete barriers on the road.
He averred that while returning from work on the same day around 11pm, his Peugeot 406 car with registration No. DP 41 EKY was involved in a ghastly accident caused by the concrete barriers allegedly placed on the road by the NNPC officials to safeguard the towers at the expense of the road users without any road signs or warning signal.
The plaintiff claimed that it took the intervention of the public spirited Nigerians who rushed him to a General Hospital while the car got damaged beyond repairs by the concrete barriers.
He further contended that all efforts to make NNPC compensate him on the incurred medical expenses and damage to his car were rebuffed by the corporation.
The plaintiff further averred that instead, the NNPC wrote his counsel claiming that it was the security agents of the federal government that placed the concrete barriers on the road and should be held responsible.
He claimed that soon after the accident, he retired from public service and could not replace his car or meet expenses on further medical treatment of his chest.
Elder Anika therefore prayed the federal high court to hold that NNPC was responsible for the placement of the concrete barriers without any warning signals to unsuspecting road users.
He also sought court declaration that the sudden placement of the concrete barriers without relevant signs and warnings was wrongful.
The veteran journalist also asked the Court to declare that the NNPC and federal government which is a joint defendant in the suit were vicariously liable for the accident and consequent injury and damage caused him by wrongful placement of barriers.
He therefore claimed N5.1m as the cost of the car, N44.1m as special damages and another N500,000 as the cost of the litigation.