The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has affirmed the judgement of the Federal High Court, which ordered the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to tender unreserved apology to Margret Thompson Ukpe, a cashier in Akwa Ibom State Government, for violation of her fundamental human rights.
Justice Abdullahi Bayero in his lead judgement also ordered the NCS boss to pay N1 million as compensation for the unlawful order of arrest placed on her.
Other members of the panel, Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya (presiding) and Justice Frederick Oho, agreed with the lead judgement.
The appellate court in its judgement delivered on July 14, 2021, obtained by THISDAY held that available evidence shown in the record of appeal and findings of the lower court revealed that the appellant’s rights have been breached.
Justice Muslim Hassan (formerly of the Federal High Court Lagos) had in his judgement in suit number: FHC/L/CS/2084/2018, declared that the directive by the Comptroller General of NCS contained in the circular dated September 18, 2018, ordering the arrest on sight and detention of the applicant without justification was a gross violation of her fundamental rights guaranteed under Sections 34, 35 and 41 of the constitution.
The court also restrained the Custom chief and his officers from further instigating/directing his officers, men or staff from arresting, detaining, prosecuting, harassing, molesting, intimidating and embarrassing the applicant.
However, the court rejected the request for the payment of N1 billion as compensation for the unlawful order of arrest and detention of the applicant.
Aggrieved with the judgment, the appellant in her notice of appeal on July 26, 2019, prayed the court to determine whether the trial court was not wrong to have refused to order the respondent to pay compensation and to offer a public apology for infringing on her fundamental rights.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Ogbuinya held that from the available evidence as shown in the record of appeal and the findings of the lower court, the appellant’s rights have been breached and that the court has the sacred duty to prevent the violation of citizen’s rights.
Consequently, Justice Ogbuinya ordered the respondent to pay as compensation to the appellant the sum of N1million for the unlawful order of arrest and/or detention of the appellant.
The court also ordered the respondent to publish a complete apology to the applicant on the front pages of two widely read and circulated daily newspapers in Nigeria.