15 February 2013

Nigeria: 'Busy Schedule' Forces Appeal Court to Adjourn Baba Suwe's Case to April 18

The tight schedule of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, forced the appellate court, on Friday, to adjourn the hearing of the appeal filed by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, against Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe.

An error by the court registrar, who listed the matter for hearing on Friday, instead of arguments also contributed in forcing the Justice Chima Centus Nweze led panel to fix April 18 for "definite hearing."

A November 24, 2011, ruling by the trial judge, Yetunde Idowu, had ordered the drug agency to pay Mr. Omidina N25 million as compensation for keeping him in detention beyond the legal time limit on the suspicion of drug ingestion.

"We filed the appeal...the issue of the working damages which the trial court gave to Baba Suwe, N2.7 million per day, it's on the high side," Femi Oloruntoba, counsel to the NDLEA, told journalists outside the court room.

Mr. Omidina was arrested in October 12, 2011, by officers of the NDLEA at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport for alleged ingestion of banned narcotics.

After a nine-day detention, purportedly to enable him excrete the ingested drugs, the NDLEA secured an order from a Federal High Court to keep him for a further 15 days.

The Yoruba actor was later allowed to go home after a futile wait for him to excrete the drugs.

In its ruling, the lower court held that keeping Mr. Omidina in custody from October 12, when he was arrested, to October 21, when the agency secured a detention court order, was illegal.

"We felt that when we come to the court of appeal, the court of appeal will look at it more dispassionately," said Mr. Oloruntoba.

Bamidele Aturu, counsel to Mr. Omidina, said that there are four issues to be argued before the appellate court.

"The (N25 million) award is reasonable in the circumstances," Mr. Aturu said. "We would argue that before the court on the 18th."

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