Charly Boy had obtained a N50 million judgement over the violation of his rights by the police during the ‘Resume or Resign’ protest he led in August 2017 against President Muhammadu Buhari’s then protracted medical vacation in London.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld a judgement awarding N50 million damages against the police for violating the rights of Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, in 2017.
The Federal High Court in Abuja awarded the N50 million compensation in favour of the 72-year-old entertainer in a judgement it delivered in October 2018.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja led by Ifeoma Jumbo-Ofo unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision by dismissing the appeal filed against it by the police on Tuesday.
The court agreed with Charly Boy’s counsel, Inibehe Effiong, that the musician proved his case with credible, convincing and unchallenged evidence. Ms Jumbo-Ofo, in the panel’s lead judgement, decried the police officers’ use of teargas and hot water cannon to disperse peaceful protesters during a demonstration led by Charly Boy in 2017.
The protest was against President Muhammadu Buhari’s protracted medical vacation in London, the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017. She described the attack by the police on the protesters as an of impunity as well as “a naked and blatant violation of the rights of the Respondent (Charles Oputa)” to dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The appellate court, therefore, reaffirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja and ordered that the police must pay Charly Boy the N50 million awarded him by the lower court.
It also directed the police to tender a written apology to him in two national newspapers and pay him N100,000 as cost of prosecuting the legal action. The appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal was jointly filed by the Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police, FCT Command, and the Nigeria Police Force. Reacting to the judgement on Tuesday, Charly Boy’s lawyer, Mr Effiong, said it “will enhance Nigeria’s democracy.”
Charly Boy had sued the police for violating his rights during the ‘Resume or Resign’ protest he led on 8 August 2017 against President Buhari’s then protracted medical vacation in London. The protesters had said Mr Buhari’s stay abroad had exceeded 90 days, the development they claimed had brought serious embarrassment to the country.
They demanded that Mr Buhari return to Nigeria to resume his official duties or resign from office. Mr Oputa alleged that the police violated his rights during the second day of the protest on 8 August 2017 by using teargas canisters, water cannon and police dogs to harass and disperse him and his fellow protesters at the Unity Fountain in Maitama, Abuja.
Mr Oputa, through his lawyer, Mr Effiong, filed the fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the police at the Federal High Court in Abuja on 29 March 2018, saying he and other protesters were attacked by policemen numbering over 100 from the FCT Police Command. He said in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/343/2018, that the attack was so severe that he collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital.
The septuagenarian urged the court to hold that the treatment meted out to him was unjustifiable, illegal, and unconstitutional. Delivering judgment in the case on 22 October 2018, John Tsoho, now the Chief Judge of the court, held that there was no evidence that miscreants invaded or stormed the protest venue and that the protesters were not violent in any way.
The judge rejected as baseless, the argument of the police that they acted to maintain peace, law and order. The police had, through their lawyer, O. M Atoyebi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, filed an appeal against the decision. But the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision on Tuesday.