JUSTICE Opeyemi Oke, on Wednesday, delivered a N100 million verdict against the Nigerian Navy, four of its ratings and their boss a Rear Admiral.
The ratings last November 5 brutalised Miss Uzoma Okere and Mr. Abdullahi Abdulazeez for allegedly obstructing them in traffic in Lagos.
There was outrage after camera phone shots of the incident were made public. The naval ratings set on them for not getting off the road quickly for a convoy that bore a Rear Admiral.
Justice Okeâ€™s judgment deserves to be relayed in some details for the lessons it holds for uniformed people who prey on civilians.
â€œMiss Okere was brutalised, beaten, pushed, pulled, dragged on the road and her blouse pulled off her by one of the naval ratings thereby exposing her nakedness from waist up, leaving her with only her brassiere.
â€œMiss Okere was violated by the ratings in glaring eyes of the public with her upper anatomy exposed to all sorts of eyes. Her private property became the object of a cinema for those who witnessed the unfortunate and disgraceful incident.
â€œThese ratings can only be described as barbarians in uniform as they have shown by this incident that they have no respect for womanhood â€“ dragging a woman on the road and partially getting her naked. They have no fear of God at all,â€ she said, adding the ratings ought to undergo psychiatric evaluation of their sanity.
â€œThe naval ratings have disgraced the uniform they wear as officers of the Nigerian Navy. They are therefore a disgrace to the whole nation,â€ she said after dismissing the defences of the accused, including that Miss Okere tried to snatch their gun. â€œThe averments in their counter-affidavit were cooked up lies to the extent that they were over-cooked and got burnt.â€
On the Rear Admiral, she said, â€œHe cannot claim ignorance on the pretext that he was reading a newspaper. The ratings acted under his authority as escorts to protect him.
â€œBeing in military uniform doesnâ€™t give powers to officers to maltreat civilians whenever there is a disagreement. What happens to the myth of â€˜an officer and a gentlemanâ€™ that we used to know decades ago?
â€œBlessed shall be the day when civilians will see uniformed men armed or unarmed and feel secured without any anxiety for their lives.
â€œBlessed shall be the day when uniformed men will treat civilians on the road with respect and come to realise that they are citizens of the country they are protecting and that their responsibilities also extend to the safety of the citizens without whom the uniformed men are uselessâ€.
In addition to the N100 million, Justice Oke asked the defendants to apologise to Miss Okere and Mr. Abdulazeez in three newspapers, two television, and two radio stations.
We applaud the courage of the victims in fighting for their rights and hope these violations would stop.