•Photos didn’t meet portrayal of naked women painted by applicant —Justice Dolor
By Emma Amaize & Ochuko Akuopha
DELTA State High Court, sitting in Effurun, has established that neither former minister of State for Education and governorship aspirant, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, nor Signatious Hotel and Suits Limited, Effurun, near Warri, undressed a female worker, Okemute Diaghwarhe, as alleged in a suit by the applicant.
Diaghwarhe had, in a suit seeking enforcement of her fundamental human rights, alleged that she was assaulted, stripped naked, property forcibly seized, and abducted by the respondents.
The applicant had sought a declaration that the act of the respondents in compelling her to strip naked and shown to the public and members of staff of the hotel “is a gross violation of her fundamental right to dignity of human person, private and family life, movement and personal liberty.”
She also prayed the court to make a declaration that Gbagi is not a fit and proper person to occupy any office of public trust, and sought the payment of N3 billion ‘as special, general, punitive, exemplary damages’ in her favour against the respondents ‘as a result of the various gross violations’ of her fundamental human rights.
Photographs didn’t show naked women
Delivering judgment, presiding Judge, Justice Emmanuel Dolor, who dismissed the suit on grounds that the application for the enforcement of her fundamental human rights lacked merit, said: “I also find as not proved in this proceeding, the applicant’s allegations that she was stripped naked by or on the orders of the 1st respondent; that she was paraded in her naked state before the hotel staff and customers and before the son of the 1st respondent; that the 1st respondent’s son made photographs and video recordings of the applicant in her nude state and that the 1st respondent’s son uploaded the recordings of the naked applicant on WhatsApp and Facebook platforms.
“Now coming to the four photographs tendered collectively as exhibit TP.3 and described by the applicant as the nude photographs posted in the social media by the 1st respondent’s son, I cannot fail to notice that two of these photographs do not answer to the description given to them by the applicant, since they are not photographs of naked women at all.
What I saw
“Rather, they are, as much as I can see the photographs of a pretty and decently dressed young woman whom I perceive to be the applicant, although I cannot be certain about this since the applicant did not demonstrate to the court the identities of the different persons in the four different photographs that she tendered as exhibit TP.3
“Am I to believe that these two photographs of decently dressed women were uploaded on social media by the 1st respondent’s son too, as alleged by the applicant? If so, to what end was it uploaded by the 1st respondent son’s social media account, his phone or to any other device used by him.
In this Information Communication Technology, ICT, age characterized by rebounding electronic sophistication and ease of authentication of facts, proof of the matters in respect of which the photographs were tendered in this proceeding should have been made of sterner stuff, and I so hold.
“As the photographs currently stand, they in view subtly diminish the credibility and bonafides of the applicant’s claim. After considering the matters before me in his human rights case, I cannot say that the applicant proved much in the case.
Justice Dolor noted: “In the case on hand, the undisputed facts and the logical inferences to be drawn from them viz-a-viz the present enquiry are that on 18/9/2020, a case of shortfall in monies due to be remitted to the coffers of Signatious Hotel was uncovered; that the facts and circumstances of this discovery were such that they raised a reasonable suspicion that offences, including the offence of stealing, had been committed and was either still in the process of being committed by a syndicate squatting within the premises of Signatious Hotel or was about to be committed.”
“That rightly or wrongly, the applicant was implicated in the activities of the suspected syndicate resulting in her offer to refund certain unremitted or missing funds belonging to Signatious Hotels, i.e. the 2nd respondent; that with this suspicion of involvement in crime hanging over the person of the applicant, the 1st respondent confined and detained the applicant somewhere within the premises of Signatious Hotel while he reported the matter to the police at Ebrumede and invited them to come and pick up the applicant.
“That the police responded to the invitation and came to Signatious Hotel premises where the respondents handed over the applicant to the police; that the applicant was handed over to the Ebrumede Police on the same day on which she was confined/detained by the respondents; that following the arrest or re-arrest of the applicant by the police at Ebrumede, she was charged to court for the offences of conspiracy and stealing in charge no. ME/147C/2020, although the course of time, the police withdrew the charge and same was struck out by the trial magistrate’s Court.
“The trial magistrate consequently discharged the applicant but with a rider that the discharge was ‘not on the merits’.
“Flowing from the facts and circumstances recounted above, I have no doubt in my mind that the requirements and modus procidendi prescribed for a valid arrest/detention by a private person under the Constitution and the administration of criminal justice legislation as set out above were scrupulously or substantially complied with by the respondents in their arrest/detention of the applicant in this case, and I so hold,” Justice Dolor said.
“The evidence before me, however, does show that the applicant was subjected by the respondents to some form of temporary confinement or detention on 18/9/2020
Undue rush to court
“It would appear, as frequently happens in these human right cases, that in the build up to this case, the applicant succumbed to the temptation to be dramatic and sensational.
“It would also appear that the applicant was in so much hurry to go to court that she failed to watch her back or do her homework well. For a three billion naira suit, methinks the applicant did too little and should have been more painstaking, more clinical and intentional in her approach to the case; after all, time does not really run against an intending applicant in fundamental rights actions.
“In the light of all foregoing, the substantive issue for determination which I set out to resolve at the outset of this judgment shall be resolved against the applicant, and it is hereby so resolved. Specifically, I find that none of the applicant’s fundamental rights has been, is being or is likely to be infringed upon by any of the respondents, and I so hold.
“The application filed by the applicant for the enforcement of her fundamental rights is lacking merit, and is hereby dismissed,” the court stated.