The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on May 24 ordered the Nigeria Police Force to pay N10 million damages to Uchechukwu Chukwuma, a businessman arrested for pirating Nollywood movies.
Muslim Hassan, the judge, said the police violated Mr Chukwuma’s fundamental human rights, including his right to personal liberty.
Mr Chukwuma had instituted a N100 million fundamental rights enforcement suit against the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and the Nigeria Police Force after he was arrested and detained for almost two months, last year.
“It is clear that the second respondent (the State Criminal Investigation Department) has no respect for the rule of law or the Constitution of Nigeria,” said the judge.
“The power of the police to investigate is not a licence to violate the Constitution.”
The judge, however, held that the NFVCB could not be held liable in the suit since they did not detain the applicant but merely reported him to the police.
The police arrested Mr Chukwuma, a businessman at the Alaba International Market in Ojo, Lagos, on August 31 last year and detained him at the Ojo Police Station.
The next day, he was taken to the Area E Police Command in Festac Town where he was detained for five days.
He was later taken to Abuja where he spent another five days in detention before he was released on September 11 on administrative bail.
Mr Chukwuma was rearrested on October 16 by the police and detained till November 30 when he was charged to court.
The police said Mr Chukwuma was detained based on intelligence reports that he was planning to escape to China.
His lawyer said he was humiliated and punished before he was brought to court.
“He was detained under inhumane conditions, sleeping on bare floor.”
Mr Chukwuma and four others were arraigned last November before Mr Hassan for allegedly duplicating and distributing unclassified, uncensored, and pirated material.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges.