By FAITH OMORUYI
A Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, Imo State, has awarded N10 million as damages to a south eastern monarch against the state government over unlawful invasion of his residence. Chairman of South East Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH Eze (Dr.) Cletus Ilomuanya had filed a suit against the state government over the invasion of his Owerri residence and forceful removal of three of his vehicles on August 5, 2011.
It is, however, expected that the state government through its attorney-general would appeal the judgment. Other respondents in the suit include the state governor, the state attorney-general, the state commissioner of police, the inspector-general of police, the Police Service Commission (PSC) along with Dr. Placid Ekwueme, Peter Onu, High Chief Uche Njoku, Chief Ugochukwu Nnawuihe, Hyginus Nwosu and Larry Ajero (for themselves and as members of Imo State Government of Nigeria State Committee on Recovery of Government Properties). Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice F. A. Olubanjo ordered the respondents to pay the claimant N10 million as compensation.
Olubanjo described the invasion as “barbaric and unlawful” adding that it “amounts to a gross violation of Ilomuanya’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Sections 46, 37 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 7 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act).” The court restrained the respondents by themselves and their agents from entering the aforesaid Eze’s property and or any other of his property.
It also made an order of perpetual injunction restraining them from harassing, threatening, hounding or intimidating him or violating his rights in any manner. It held that there was no justification for unlawfully raiding the monarch’s house with armed policemen and thugs. In a statement by the South East Council of Traditional Rulers through the chairman’s Chief Press Secretary, Kennedy Eweama, the council stated that the claimant’s counsel, Obiora Obianwu (SAN) described the judgment as a victory for decency and rule of law.
It added that Obianwu said every citizen was subject to the law. However, the state government has expressed reservations with the judgment and has perfected plans to appeal the judgment especially as it believes the action was legal and carried out within the ambits of the law.