By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — An Abuja High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja has awarded N100 million as damages in favour of one Desmond Utonwen, a Senior Correspondent with TheNews Magazine, who was on December 11, 2009, brutalised by men of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF.
The court which was presided over by Justice U. P. Kekemeke, maintained that the attack, the beating to unconsciousness, bundling into Police vehicle and detention of the applicant for many hours without access to medical treatment, was inhuman and degrading and thus amounted to a violation of his right as enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Specifically, Utonwen had gone before the court to enforce his fundamental human right, after he was severely beaten by policemen when he attempted to cover a protest that broke out at Garki Area 3, Abuja, in 2009.
Sequel to the inhumane treatment meted against him by policemen dispatched to quell the crisis, Utonwen, among other things, sought a declaration “that the forceful collection of one digital camera, one digital recorder, TheNEWS magazine official identity card, cash of N2,000.00 all belonging to the 1st Applicant by the 1st to 6thRespondents who are agents of the 7th to 9th Respondents on the 11th day of December, 2009 amount to forceful acquisition of the Applicant’s property and a violation of the 1st Applicant right to own moveable property as enshrined in Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Though Justice Kekemeke concluded hearing on the matter on July 12, however, in his judgment dated October 4, the judge agreed with Counsel to the Applicants, Mr Ugochukwu Ezekiel from Keyamo’s Chambers, that the actions of the Respondents amounted to a violation of the reporter’s right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, right to own moveable and immoveable property and right to freedom of the press and expression as enshrined in sections 34, 39, and 44 of the 1999 constitution.
Consequently, the Court ordered Police to pay N100 million as special damages for their wrongful act, as well as, immediately return all the items seized from the journalist.