Court condemns police involvement in recovery of civil debts, awards N1 million compensation to applicant

Court condemns police involvement in recovery of civil debts, awards N1 million compensation to applicant

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court has ordered the police to pay compensation of 1 million naira to businessman Dallaji Nuhu for violating his personal rights and freedoms.

The court’s decision was issued following Nuhu’s filing of an application to enforce his rights in case reference FCT/HC/CV/2098/23, in which he accused the defendants of grossly violating his rights.

The defendants in the suit are the Nigerian Police, the District Commander of Metro Maitama and Muhammad Hussani.

The plaintiff in his suit stated that in November 2021, he took a loan of $105,000 (about N75.9 million at the exchange rate) from the fourth defendant (Husani) with a promise to repay it in instalments.

Although the applicant stated that he had remitted a substantial amount which brought him to about N41,000, the fourth respondent insisted that he had to pay an additional N49,300 using the 2022 exchange rate.

The applicant, however, insisted on being paid the sum of N41,000 which was the correct amount calculated at the 2021 exchange rate.

“In order to force me to pay the sum of N49,300, the fourth defendant forced the officers of the first and third defendants to arrest me on 13/01/23 at my private home in Abuja,” the applicant told the court

He alleged that he was eventually released by the respondents after receiving a promissory note in which he agreed to pay the sum of N49,300.

The applicant subsequently brought an action, arguing that his rights to freedom of movement and to private and family life had been endangered by the actions of the respondents.

The applicant argued that he had not committed any offence that would justify such treatment by the respondents.

He prayed the court to order that his arrest by the 1st and 3rd defendants and forcing him to enter into an agreement with the 4th defendant to pay the 4th defendant the sum of N49,300,000 was unlawful, unconstitutional, void and of no effect as it contravened sections 35, 36, 38 and 39 of the 1999 Constitution.

He was seeking N50 million in damages.

In passing sentence, Judge Peter Kekemeke criticised the respondents for being overzealous.

“The civil transaction is not an offence covered by the Penal Code because the 1st-3rd defendant is not entitled by law to recover the loan.

“In this particular case, the police have become a nosy body, a nosy intruder who
abandoned their core responsibilities to engage in matters beyond their duties.

“In my opinion, the applicant’s right to personal liberty was violated by defendants Nos. 2-4.

“The applicant was able to prove with evidence how his rights under Articles 36 and 37 were violated.

“From the evidence before me, it appears that the fourth respondent is looking for a quick and easy way to force the applicant to recover the loan.

It was agreed by both parties that the applicant had borrowed the said amount from the fourth respondent.

“Our law provides simple procedures to recover such indisputable funds in the shortest possible time,” he said.

The judge held that the fourth respondent should have invoked the relevant law against the applicant instead of calling the Police into such a case.

“The fourth respondent is a temptation to which the second and third respondents should not have succumbed.”

He further stated that falling into this trap constituted a violation of the applicant’s personal liberty.

However, he advised the applicant to pay off the debt and restore his image.

”Overall, the proposal is partially successful:

“It is hereby declared that the arrest of the applicant by the officers of the 1st to 3rd defendants and forcing him to pay the sum of N49,300 to the 4th defendant is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

”The officers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents are hereby enjoined from compelling the applicant to pay the remaining amount borrowed to the 4th respondent.

“N1 million in damages to the applicant from the respondents for violating the applicant’s fundamental right to personal liberty,” he ruled.

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