Nigeria: Rights Violation - Court Awards N11m Damages Against Customs

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has awarded N11, 050, 000 as damages against the Nigerian Customs Services (NCS) over the violation of the fundamental rights of Miss Helen Olorunda.

Justice Nkeonye Maha, in a judgement delivered on 5th February 2021 in Suit N0: FHC/ABJ/CS/491/2020 awarded the sum of N5 million as exemplary damage, N5 million as compensation for violation of the applicant's fundamental right, N1 million as general compensation and N50,000 as the cost of filling the action against the Nigerian Customs and Augustine Chidi, a deputy comptroller general.

Olorunda, a businesswoman, had filed the action on May 13, 2020, after she was unlawfully detained and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment by officials of the NCS at their headquarters in Abuja from 30th to 31st March 2020 over a petition written by one Musa Gokaru against D.C. Lawal Argungu. The petition was not addressed to the Customs or the Comptroller General.

She argued through her lawyer, O.D. Ogunniyi that the action of the staff of the state institution in detaining her over a petition not written against her and referring to her as "a shameless prostitute and a criminal" violated her right to life and dignity of her person under sections 33, 34, and 46 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 as amended.

The court held that the acts of the respondents are gross abuse of power. "From Exhibit NCSB1 it is clear that this complaint shows allegation on hierarchy squabbles at the 1st respondent's office, and nothing discloses an element of fraud against the applicant."

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