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Court orders Inspector-General of Police to pay N1 million compensation for parading suspect

Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has ordered the Inspector-General of Police to pay the sum of N1 million as compensation to one Victor Ojionu for parading him before the media.

Justice Abubakar gave the order on Thursday after listening to arguments from parties in the suit. She said a court order must be obtained by the Nigerian police to parade suspects.

She held that the parading of Mr Ojionu in handcuffs, who was detained without a warrant, is in violation of his fundamental human rights.

Back story

  • Mr Ojionu was arrested and paraded on September 17, 2019, by the Police Intelligence Response Team led by Abba Kyari for internet fraud.
  • He was arrested for allegedly stealing over N500 million within five years.
  • According to media reports, a victim had alerted the police and EFCC about the withdrawal of millions of naira from his account following the theft of his credit card details.

What happened in court?

In a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/01/2020, Mr Ojionu had sued the IGP and the Attorney-General of the Federation in a fundamental human rights suit.

His lawyer, Abubakar Marshal argued that the pre-trial parade of his client was unlawful and a violation of his fundamental human rights since he was yet to be found guilty by a competent court of law.

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He sought the court to declare that his pre-trial parade was illegal and void as it violates Section 34 of the constitution and Articles 5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

He also sought among other reliefs, an order compelling the media houses that covered the parade to retract the news item from their platforms.

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Ruling on the matter, Justice Abubakar held that the pre-trial media parade of Ojionu was illegal, null and void and in violation of Sections 34 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and Articles 6,4,5 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The court also made an order compelling media houses that had covered the parading to pull down the defamatory publications.

The court awarded N1 million in favour of Mr Ojionu for the unlawful violation of his rights

What you should know

  • Lawyers have argued that the parading of suspects contravenes section 36 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), which guarantees the presumption of innocence of a suspect until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
  • The courts at several occasions have cautioned law enforcement agencies to desist from parading criminal suspects before the media.
  • Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state on September 30, 2021, assented to the Administration of Criminal Justice (Amendment) Law (ACJL) of Lagos State, 2021.
  • Section 9(a) of the law states that: “As from the commencement of this law, the police shall refrain from parading any suspect before the media”.

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