Land dispute: Court awards N6m damages against police in Akwa Ibom
A High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, has awarded N6 million damages against the Commissioner for Police, Mr Andrew Amengheme, and two of his men for the infringement of fundamental rights of one Mr Okon Asuquo Ibanga who is a businessman.
The presiding judge, Justice Ntong Ntong, in his ruling held that “forcing the businessman to sign an undertaking to refund N1.7 million being the consideration for his own land is unlawful, opprobrious and unwholesome.”
Justice Ntong ordered that the Commissioner of Police pay the applicant N3 million while the first respondent, Supol Friday Ojomo pays N2 million and the third respondent, IPO Ekere Etim, N1 million.
The court also set aside the undertaking that the Police forcefully extracted from the applicant to refund the proceeds of his land.
Justice Ntong said the police knew that the case was a civil matter pertaining to the sale of land which was pending in the High Court, Uyo, but out of “greed and overzealousness, the Police officers molested and intimidated the applicant with arrest and detention”.
The court, while describing the act as “mischievous, malicious and fraudulent”, said that the police officers compromised their statutory role and embarked on a journey of their own.
Justice Ntong held that by engaging in the illegal act, the Commissioner of Police and his officers jointly and severally committed an infraction of the law and become liable for the infringement of the fundamental rights of the applicant.
He ordered the Commissioner and his men to issue a public apology to the applicant for intermeddling in a contractual transaction between civilian citizens.
The court said the police should not in any community of civilized people be used or allowed to be used in a settlement of land disputes.
Justice Ntong held that there was no counter-affidavit from the police and their refusal to challenge the action has reduced his burden of making an elaborate appraisal of the case.
He said evidence before the court is credible to the effect that the police officers abandoned their core duty and plummeted into an abysmal level of becoming debt collectors in a civil transaction between the applicant and one Mr Emmanuel Okon Effiong and Mr Uwem Edem Udo.