A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to immediately release a truck unlawfully seized and detained by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) Isolo Police Division, Lagos since last December 21.
Justice Akintayo Aluko also ordered the IGP to produce in court the Commissioner of Police (COP), Lagos and the other officers who are the co-respondents for contempt proceedings over alleged violation of the court’s order.
The judge made the order last Friday in suit FHC/L/CS/471/2021 filed by the applicant, Mr Taju Alade against the IGP; COP; DPO and DCO Isolo Division, Fambegbe Stephen; Investigative Police Officer of the division, ASP Ganiyu and the Nigeria Police Commission as first to sixth respondents.
The matter was formerly before Justice Maureen Onyetenu, who made the March 26 order.
Alade, a truck driver in the employment of Mumean Lawal, commenced the suit before Justice Onyetenu on March 10, 2021, through his counsel Love Okwuokei.
He averred that he was engaged by Crowd Appeal Nig Ltd to convey paper materials from Trade Fair to Alagbado on December 21, 2020.
On his way to deliver the goods, along Ago Road, Lagos he observed electrical cable on the road and to avoid running over a live wire, he pulled over and asked bystanders if it was safe to drive over the cables but policemen from Isolo Police Division arrested him on the allegation that he hit an electric pole with his truck.
He was subsequently detained at the station “in an overcrowded cell” for over 48 hours without being charged at the nearby Magistrates or High Court, while his truck “with goods worth millions of naira inside” was seized.
“I was slapped, shoved, verbally and physically abused by some cellmates for ‘coming into the cell empty-handed.’ I have never in my life felt so bullied, humiliated and dehumanised,” Alade averred in his originating application.
He approached the court via an ex parte application and sought six prayers including an order for the immediate release of the truck, N10million as general damages and N500,000 as cost of the action.
Ruling on his application on March 26, Justice Onyetenu ordered the truck’s release pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
She further restrained the Respondents from further arresting the applicant and interfering with his means of livelihood, or interfering with his right to liberty and freedom of movement.
But the respondents failed to comply following which the respondents initiated contempt proceedings against the police before Justice Aluko, to whom the case was transferred.
At the commencement of proceedings last Friday, the judge slammed the police.
Justice Aluko held: “I have gone through the records and found that the respondents have been duly served with the Certified True Copy of the order of this court which directed them to release the trucks.
“I have also found that both form 48 and 49 have been duly served on the IGP and other respondents even though there is evidence of service of the Order of this court and form 48 and 49 been served on the respondents. I don’t want to conclude that the IGP and the Commissioner of Police Lagos State would wrongly flout the order of this court.
“I am sure that the IGP and the Commissioner of Police Lagos State are well aware of their responsibilities and duties under the Constitution to enforce orders of this court in any part of the Federation.
“For this reason, I will want to give the IGP under whose supervision the Commissioner of Police and other respondents operates, the benefit of the doubt and another opportunity to act in compliance with the order of this court and section 287(3) of 1999 Constitution as amended.
“Consequently, I hereby order the IGP to, without any further delay, act in compliance with the order of this court made on the 26th of March, 2021 and section 287(3) of the Constitution and by so doing to produce the Commissioner of Police Lagos State and the other officers who are the co-respondents in court at the next adjourned date for them to show to the court why an order to commit them to prison should not be made against them for violating the order of this court without any justification.”
The court directed that the copy should be served on all the respondents.
Justice Aluko adjourned further proceedings till December 7, 2021.