Court delivers judgment on invasion of Peace Corps Headquarters July 6

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‎From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja has reserved judgement in the N2 billion fundamental human rights suit brought against ‎the  Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS) by the Peace Corps of Nigeria over the unlawful arrest and detention of its National Commandant, Ambassador Dickson Akoh and 49 others.

In the suit filed by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Godwin Agabi (SAN), the organisation alleged that a combined team of the police and DSS had on February 28, unlawfully raided the organization’s new Headquarters.

The applicants are demanding the sum of N2bn as compensation for the embarrassment caused the Peace Corps of Nigeria and its Incorporated Trustees by the arrest and detention of its personnel.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole fixed the date after counsel to parties to the suit adopted and canvassed arguments for and against the case.

‎Arguing the applicants case yesterday, Agabi who moved the originating summons file on March 8, 2017 alongside all the necessary processes filed including a counter affidavit urged the court to grant the reliefs contained therein.

Agabi contended that the questions to be considered by the court include whether the first applicant (Peace Corps of Nigeria), is a legitimate organisation.

He submitted that the respondents in the suit have all agreed that the organisation is legitimate one registered with the ‎Corporate Affairs Commission, to carry out operations that is military and paramilitary.

“My lord, the question for determination is ‎Whether the 1st applicant is a legitimate organisation.

“The respondents admitted that it is a legitimate organisation but their contention is that its activities are of military activity. But ‎they have not substantiated their allegations, on this ground alone, the court is entitled to grant our application.

He referred the courts to exhibits attached showing that that we are good people.

For instance, he submitted that exhibit, KGA 13A, which is judgment of Justice Muhammad Umar delivered on Jan. 22, 2010, the court held that we are not an illegal organisations.

He further referred the court to the judgment of the late Justice Evoh Chukka delivered on April 22, 2014, and an enrolled order to prove that the first applicant is a legitimate organisation.

Agabi also drew the attention of the court to exhibit KGA 10, where the police admitted that Peace Corps is a legitimate organisation.

He submitted that in all these judgments there has been no appeals by the respondents.

To further prove his case, Agabi also referred court to exhibit 15a and b containing advices from the AGF that the respondents should comply with these judgments.

He finally urged court to grant the application.

In opposition to the suit, counsel representing the Inspector General of Police and the Nigerian Police Force, David Igbodo argued that contrary to the plaintiffs’ averrement in the Judgement of Justice Umar, the court had said that if a lawful organisation was found to be engaged in unlawful activities, it is imperative for the security organisation to take necessary step.

Igbodo argued that, the fact that it is registered is not in dispute as a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), as it is registered under Part C of CAMA and can only operate as an NGO, stating that exhibits tendered by the applicants has no relevance that the NGO is not engaging in unlawful activities and committing crime against the nation.

“The fact that peace corps is a registered and lawful organisations is not in dispute. The issue here is that the NGO is operating outside it’s mandate. All the exhibits attached are irrelevant to this case.

‎”Peace Corps is registered under part C of CAMA as an NGO. Police has the power to investigate and charge the organisation if it is committing a crime. Even those covered by the immunity ‎clause can still be investigated.

He further informed the court that the applicants have been charged before another court on money laundering and other offences.

We urged court to dismiss application as it is academic.

He further submitted that being a registered Non-Governmental Organisation, the applicant acted beyond its mandate by engaging in recruitment, wearing of uniforms and carrying out military training and activities.

He urged the court to dismiss the apllication as it is academic and because the prayer being sought was premised on a condition that it did not commit and offence, while the NGO had been charged to court for trial.

Counsel representing the third to sixth respondents, Oyin Kolesho in his argument also urged the court to dismiss the apllication on the grounds that the arrest of Akor, in line with Section 35 (1)c of the Nigerian constitution, the arrest and detention of the applicant cannot be said to be unlawful, having been made upon the reasonable suspicion of commission of any.

He further stated that detention of the applicant did not exceed 48 hours, and as such it was within the constitutional limit, adding that the applicant had not shown that the registration with CAC entitles it to engage in recruitment activities, collection of fees from members of the public, training activities and wearing of uniform.

Having taken submissions from parties, Justice Kolawole adjourned the matter to July 6, 2017 for judgement.

In the substantive suit, the plaintiffs are praying the court to declare as “illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the arrest of Ambassador Akoh and other officers of the Corps as well as the sealing up of its Head office in Abuja and offices in the 36 States of the Federation.

In addition, they want the court to declare that under the 1999 Constitution as amended, they have not committed any offence to warrant their arrest, detention and sealing up of their offices across the country as done by the defendants.

The plaintiffs are asking for an order compelling the respondents to unseal the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria and its offices nationwide.
By the suit, the plaintiffs are praying the court to declare as “illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the arrest of Ambassador Akoh and other officers of the Corps as well as the sealing up of its Head office in Abuja and offices in the 36 States of the Federation.

In addition, they want the court to declare that under the 1999 Constitution as amended, they have not committed any offence to warrant their arrest, detention and sealing up of their offices across the country as done by the defendants.

The plaintiffs are asking for an order compelling the respondents to unseal the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria and its offices nationwide.

Further more, they are seeking an order for the respondents to release properties seized during their unlawful invasion of the applicants’ office.

Also the applicants prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, their privies or agents from further sealing the applicants’ office and disrupting their activities, including its meetings and orientation of its members.

They further asked the court for an order restraining the respondents perpetually from further harassing, intimidating, arresting and or detaining the applicants in the course of doing their legitimate and lawful duties.

Apart from the above reliefs, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that the sealing up of their office Headquarters in Abuja is illegal, unlawful, malicious and unconstitutional haven not committed any offence to warrant the unlawful invasion and seizure of properties.

Besides, they want the court to declare that they are entitled to fundamental rights to acquire and own properties, lawful assembly, freedom of movement, personal liberty and dignity of their human persons as guaranteed under sections 34, 35, 40, 41, and 43 of the 1999 constitution.



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