By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA—AN Anambra State High Court sitting at Otuocha has ordered an Onitsha-based legal practitioner, Mr. Chibuzo Odili, and his client, Mr. Chinonso Nwajeri, to pay the sum of N2.05 million to one Mr. Samuel Ugokwe, an Onitsha-based trader over alleged false accusation.
The presiding Judge, Justice J.I. Nweze, who gave the order, also directed the Registrar of the court to forward a copy of the judgement to the Inspector General of Police and Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Police command, to ensure that all those who contributed in one way or the other to the travails of Ugokwe did not go unpunished.
The court further directed that another copy of the judgement be sent to the chairman of Onitsha branch of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to which Mr. Odili belongs “for necessary actions”.
Ugokwe had, through his counsel, Mr. Victor Ejide, a human rights lawyer, sued Odili and his client for supplying the police false information leading to his unlawful arrest and detention by officers and men of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra State .
Odili had, in a petition dated April 14, 2010, informed the Commissioner of Police of the alleged kidnap at gun point of his client, Mr. Nwajeri, by unknown persons at Ogidi and taken to Okija where he was drugged and dumped.
“He had alleged that the abductors were acting as agents of Ugokwe. The said story was later found to be a “fairy tale”.
Nwajeri had alleged that he was detained by his said unknown kidnappers from the date of his kidnap but found his way back to Onitsha on April 15, 2010.
He further claimed that the police in different divisions refused to incident his complaint but rather advised him to consult a lawyer to report the incident to the Commissioner of Police.
Luck, however, ran out on the legal practitioner and his client when he packaged the “fairy tale” in a petition dated April 14, 2010, reporting events that allegedly occurred on April 15, 2010, a day after the petition was written.
Ugokwe was arrested on April 25, 2010, by the police and that marked the beginning of his travails that lasted over six months.
When all efforts at securing his release failed, Mr. Ejide on April 29, 2010, filed a suit for the enforcement of his client’s fundamental human right.
The court noted that the goal of Mr. Odili and his client was strictly to kill Mr. Ugokwe and that the duo had fabricated the allegation of kidnapping.
The court held that “Odili evidently knew that the allegation was false since it is impossible for a petition date of April 14, 2010 to report event of April 15, 2010, a day after it was written”.
Justice Nweze in his judgement, remarked several inconsistencies and irreconcilable contradictions in the case of the legal practitioner, his client and the police officers who were joined as respondents in the suit.
“While Mr. Nwajeri claimed he was at Okija on April 14, 2010, where his kidnappers had held him hostage, the police in the counter affidavit averred that he was at the building materials market, Ogbunike, near Onitsha on the said date.
“He also claimed that he returned to Onitsha on April 15, 2010, but the Police claimed that he (Nwajeri) returned to Onitsha on April 14, 2010.
“While he claimed that he met some police officers at Okija who assisted him in contacting his cousins, the police who were sued alongside him, claimed that the police at Okija dismissed him as a lunatic and drunkard, but referred him to Awada police station.”
While the fundamental right suit was pending at Otuocha Division of the High Court, Ugokwe was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and unlawful possession of fire arms, and was remanded in prison custody by an Onitsha Magistrate before the courts went on vacation, and later appeared before a Special Tribunal in charge No. HN/24c/2010.
However, the case was given accelerated hearing and judgement delivered on November 11, 2010, by Justice M.I. Onochie, who discharged and acquitted him, describing the allegation of kidnapping and the entire story of the prosecution as a “fairy tale”.
Ejide, while speaking with newsmen, lamented what he termed “detestable and disgusting attitude of some of his colleagues who, spurred by greed, have thrown morality and conscience over board, embark on sharp practices.”