The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday awarded N40m to the founder of Lagos-based Chocolate City Group, Audu Maikori, as compensation for his unlawful arrest and detention between February 17 and 18, 2017 and again on March 10 and 13, 2017.
Delivering judgment in the fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by Maikori on May 5, 2017, Justice John Tsoho, ordered the four respondents, including the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, and the police to pay the damages to the applicant.
While ruling that the police could justifiably arrest suspects for allegedly violating law and order in cyberspace, the judge also directed the respondents to pay the sum of N1,430 to the applicant as the cost of instituting the suit.
However, the judge noted that his judgment was not meant to interfere with the ongoing trial of Maikori in Kaduna State.
The respondents to the suit are the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Attorney General of Kaduna State.
Maikori was arrested on allegations of posting “inciting” tweets, alleging the killing of some Southern Kaduna students by Fulani herdsmen. The details of the tweets later turned out to be false, but Maikori claimed he had obtained information from his driver.
He later expressed regret over the posts and retracted them. But the police subsequently obtained an order of arrest from a Magistrate’s Court in Kaduna, with which he was arrested in Lagos on February 17. He was flown to Abuja, where he was detained and released on bail on February 18.
Justice Tsoho, who granted 14 out of the 25 prayers sought by the applicant, held that Maikori’s arrest in Lagos was unlawful, as the police failed to register the arrest warrant in any court in Lagos, where it was effected.
He ruled, “The arrest was improper, irregular and wrongful. By necessary implication, the arrest was unlawful despite being released after 24 hours.”
The court also agreed with the submissions of Maikori’s lawyer, Miss Gloria Ballason, that the applicant was arrested and detained between March 10 and 13, even when the police were aware of his respiratory health challenge, thereby violating his right to life and dignity.
He ruled, “By virtue of exhibit 3 (medical report), an affidavit evidence, the police was made aware of the health challenge of the applicant. This fact was not controverted by all the respondents.
“This court found and held that the conduct of the police infringes on the applicant’s right to life, liberty, dignity, freedom, movement, as enshrined in sections 34, 35, 40 and 43 of the Constitution.”
But the judge directed that the judgment would not constitute any prejudice to the ongoing trial of Maikori on charges relating to his tweets through his Twitter handle, which was considered by the police and the Kaduna State Government as inciting.
He ruled, “Social media cannot be without social responsibility. It would amount to an invitation to anarchy to say that the cyberspace is beyond control.”