Justice Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court in Lagos State has ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to obey an order seeking the release of a truck unlawfully seized and detained by the Divisional Police Officer and the Divisional Crime Officer of the Isolo Police Division, Lagos State, since December 21, 2020.
Justice Aluko also ordered the IGP to produce the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, and the other officers who were co-respondents in court for contempt proceedings over alleged violation of the court’s order.
In suit FHC/L/CS/471/2021 filed by one Taju Alade, the IG, CP, DPO and DCO, Isolo; the Investigative Police Officer of the division, ASP Ganiyu, and the Nigeria Police Commission were respondents.
Alade, a truck driver, commenced the suit before Justice M. A. Onyetenu on March 10, 2021, through his counsel, Love Okwuokei.
He averred that he was engaged by Crowd Appeal Nigeria Limited to convey paper materials from the Trade Fair area to Alagbado on December 21, 2020.
However, on his way to deliver the goods, Alade stated that he observed electrical cables on Ago Road, Lagos, and to avoid running over a live wire, he pulled over and asked bystanders if it was safe to drive over the cables.
The applicant claimed that policemen from the Isolo Police Division arrested him on the allegation that he hit an electric pole with his truck.
Alade stated that he was detained at the station for over 48 hours without being arraigned at the nearby magistrates or high courts, while his truck, with goods worth millions of naira inside, was seized.
He approached the court through an ex parte application and sought six prayers, including an order for the immediate release of the truck, N10m as general damages, and N500,000 as cost of the action.
In a ruling on March 26, Justice Onyetenu ordered the truck’s release pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
She further restrained the respondents from further arresting the applicant and interfering with his means of livelihood, or interfering with his right to liberty and freedom of movement.
But the respondents failed to comply following which the applicant initiated contempt proceedings against the police before Justice Aluko, to whom the case was transferred.
At the commencement of proceedings last Friday, the judge berated the police for disobeying the court order.
He said, “I have gone through the records and found that the respondents have been duly served with the Certified True Copy of the order of this court which directed them to release the truck. I have also found that both Form 48 and 49 have been duly served on the IG and other respondents, even though there is evidence of service of the order of this court and Form 48 and 49 being served on the respondents. I don’t want to conclude that the IG and the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, would wrongly flout the order of this court.
“I am sure that the IG and the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, are well aware of their responsibilities and duties under the constitution to enforce orders of this court in any part of the federation. For this reason, I will want to give the IG under whose supervision the Commissioner of Police and other respondents operates, the benefit of the doubt and another opportunity to act in compliance with the order of this court and Section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“Consequently, I hereby order the IG to, without any further delay, act in compliance with the order of this court made on the 26th of March, 2021 and Section 287(3) of the Constitution and by so doing to produce the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, and other officers who are the co-respondents in court at the next adjourned date for them to show to the court why an order for committal should not be made against them for violating the order of this court without any justification.”
Justice Aluko further directed that the copy should be served on all the respondents and adjourned till December 7, 2021.
The judge ordered that the copy should be served on all the respondents and adjourned till December 7, 2021.