Justice finally came the way of Uzoma Okere on Wednesday, when Justice Opeyemi Oke of the Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, awarded N100 million damages against Rare Admiral Harry Arogundade, four naval ratings, and the Nigerian Navy, having been found guilty of violating the rights of the applicant to dignity.
While delivering the judgement in the assault issued on Ms. Okere and Abdullahi Abdulazeez by the naval ratings, Justice Oke noted that there are three issues for determination by the court. The court was to determine whether the applicants succeeded in establishing that their fundamental rights was infringed upon; whether the 1st and 6th (Mr. Arogundade and the Nigerian Navy) are liable for infringing on the rights of the applicants; and if the applicants are entitled to the reliefs being sought by them.
Amongst the reliefs been sought by the applicants are N100 million damages; a declaration that the action of the respondents in torturing, striping naked, detaining and arresting the applicant was unlawful and unconstitutional; a declaration that the applicants and all are entitled to use the road without being subjected to inhumane treatment. They also want an apology addressed to them through the media, which must be published within one month of delivering the judgement.
Applicant's right was violated
The judge noted that after going through the documentary evidence before her, which were two compact disks provided by the applicants and the 1st and 6th respondents, she saw:
"I saw 4 officers in naval uniform, two were holding guns; the 1st applicant was being dragged on the road by the two officers; the applicant became naked from waist to her chest with only her black brazier on." She resolved that the applicant's right was indeed violated.
"She was beaten, pushed, pulled, dragged and made naked with her upper anatomy exposed to all sort of eyes; her private property became the object of a cinema for those who witnessed the unfortunate and disgraceful incident." she said.
Pertaining to the naval ratings that perpetrated the act, Justice Oke said "the officers can be described as barbaric in uniform, who have no respect for womanhood, they have no fear of God. It has got to a time when such officers may have to undergo psychiatric test before being employed."
She then concluded that the right of the applicant was infringed upon by the 2nd to 5th respondents.
Is Arogundade and the Navy liable?
In determining if the 1st and 6th respondents are liable, the judge noted that an employee is the agent of his employer, and such is liable for the wrong doing of his employee.
Explaining how a convoy operates, Justice Oke said "the respondents were all together. In a convoy, you have a car in front while the person being protected is in the middle, while the other cars follow. The 1st respondent cannot say he is not aware of what happened. When the car in front noticed that the other cars are not following, it radioed the back car to find out the situation of things, else there is a security breach and that could be dangerous. Therefore, he cannot claim innocence of what happened."
The judge further stated that the averment that it was the applicant that used the horsewhip on the rating cannot be bought by the court.
"Even in Nollywood you cannot see a story line like that acted.
"The 2nd to 5th respondents were under the authority of the 1st respondent as his escort. Employer can be held liable for the actions of his employees. I hold that the 1st and 6th respondents are liable for the 2nd to 5th respondents' actions."
Uzoma and Abdulazeez to get N100 million
The judge said the that no amount of monetary award can be awarded to the applicants to compensate for the actions of the defendants but she awarded N100 million in favour of the applicants.
She further ordered the respondents to make a public apology to the applicants within one month of delivering the judgement, amongst other declarations.
"Blessed shall be the day when civilians will see uniformed men, armed or unarmed officers, and feel secured without any anxiety for their lives. Blessed shall be the day when uniformed men will treat civilians on the road with respect and come to the realisation that they are citizens of the country who are to be protected," declared Justice Oke.
However, the 1st and 6th respondents told the court through their counsel, Lawrence Imolode, that they will appeal the judgement.
Ms. Okere and Mr. Abdulazeez filed a suit against Mr. Arogundade, C.I. Jeremaih, S.A. Kaniga, S.A. Bullem, Lieutenant Francis Okolaogu and the Nigerian Navy, all as the 1st to 6th respondent respectively, on account of the assault allegedly issued on the claimants on September 30, 2008 along Muri Okunola way in Victoria, Lagos.
While the 2nd to 5th respondents were joined in the suit, they have failed to show appearance or respond to the court summon.
So sweet a justice!! . But come o, my own be about the N100 million.