The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, awarded N15 million against the Nigerian police over the alleged killings of three members of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in his judgment, also ordered the National Hospital, Abuja, to immediately released the three corpses in its morgue to their families.
Justice Taiwo while granting Reliefs A and C of the applicants, said each of the applicants must be paid by the police a sum of N5 million as compensation for the killings, making a total sum of N15 million.
The judge, however, did not grant the prayer that the Nigerian police should tender an apology in two national newspapers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Inspector General of Police is the 1st respondent while the medical director of National Hospital, Abuja, is the 2nd respondent in the three separate charges.
Suleiman Shehu, Mahdi Musa and Bilyaminu Abubakar Faska were alleged to have been killed by agents of the first respondent on July 22, 2019 while on a peaceful protest to demand for the freedom of their Islamic Leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja.
The bodies of the deceased were alleged to have been deposited at the National Hospital, Abuja.
The applicants, who are said to be brothers of the deceased in the suit, are Ibrahim Abdullahi, Ahmad Musa and Yusuf Faska respectively.
The applicants, in separate affidavits in support of the originating motions to enforce their fundamental rights filed by their lawyer, Bala Dakum, said they were brothers to the deceased.
They told the court that they wrote the hospital managements, through their lawyers, for the release of their brothers for burial in accordance with Islamic rites but to no avail.
The applicants prayed the court to declare that “the killings of the deceased on July 22, 2019 by the police was illegal, unlawful, null and void and amounts to gross violation of their fundamental rights to life as enshrined in Section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“An order of this honourable court directing the 1st and 2nd respondents to release the corps of the deceased to the applicants for burial in accordance with Islamic rites.”
They also sought for the order of the court directing the Nigerian police to pay each of the applicants the sum of one hundred million naira for unlawful detention and killings of their brothers.
“An order of this honourable court directing the respondent to tender a formal apology to the applicants by publishing same in two national daily newspapers.
“Such further order(s) as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of this case,” the motion read in part.
At the last sitting on June 24, though the Nigerian police was not represented in court, counsel to the National Hospital, Chris Momoh, informed that he did not file counter-affidavit in respect of the suit because the hospital was only a custodian to the bodies brought by the 1st respondent.
However, counsel to the police, Lough Simon, appeared on Monday when the case was called for judgment.
Justice Taiwo did not allow him to make any submission.
“The judgment is ready. You are not going to arrest my judgment.
“You did not file any process; there is nothing before me; so you don’t have any fact to put right,” he responded.
Delivering the judgment separately, Taiwo noted that despite the service of court processes and hearing notices on the 1st defendant (police), the security outfit failed to file any counter application.
According to him, matters of fundamental rights enforcement should be given priority over any other cases, citing previous Supreme Court cases.
The judge, who noted that the application by the plaintiffs was filed on May 6, said where respondent did not file any counter application, “the court shall assume that the respondent has accepted the facts in the application.”
He recalled that on May 22 when the matter came up for the first time, Dakum, who was counsel to the applicants, said he was unable to serve the 1st defendant (police).
He said he adjourned the matter till June 17 and on June 17 when the matter came up, the police did not send any representation or file any application.
“I adjourned until June 24 and the 1st defendant did not show up again,” the judge said.
Justice Taiwo held that the 1st defendant had been given adequate notice to make its submission and the principle of fair hearing had been adhered to by the court.
“Once the opportunity is offered, it is the responsibility of parties to utilise same and once this is over, court has nothing to do than to deliver justice,” he held.
He said the court deals with concrete facts and that the allegation was that
Suleiman, Mahdi and Bilyaminu were killed while on peaceful protest in Abuja.
He noted that their corpses were still with the 2nd defendant at the instance of the 1st defendant.
“Where an averment is uncontroverted, the court shall assume it to be true. So averment that is not controverted is deemed to be right.
“There is no denial of this fact that the applicant was killed while on peaceful protest by the 1st defendant and there is nothing before the court to show any counter by the defendant,” he said.
Quoting from the Holy Quran, Justice Taiwo stated that in Islam, human life is sacred.
According to him, the Holy Quran frowns at extra-judicial killings.
The judge said despite efforts of the families, it was painful that the bodies of the deceased were still in the morgue.
Justice Taiwo, therefore, granted Reliefs A and C sought by the applicants.
On the issue of N100 million damages demanded, he said though human lives cannot be quantified, there was the need for the applicants to be compensated for the loss.
“It is the duty of the court to access damages though human life cannot be quantified. However, it is illegal to take human life
“The quantum of damages is at the discretion of the court though human life cannot be quantified,” he stressed.
Justice Taiwo, however, noted that in the affidavits filed by the applicants, the age of the deceased, their status; whether married or not, whether they had children or not, among others, were not stated for him to evaluate the extent of the damages.
In light of this, the judge ordered the 1st respondent (police) to pay the sum of N5 million each to the applicants.
While he also ordered that the National Hospital, Abuja, should release the bodies of the deceased to the families, Justice Taiwo refused to grant the prayer that the Nigerian police be made to tender an apology in two national newspapers.