by Tolu Orekoya
Two years after Abigail Ige was beaten by police officers in Ado Ekiti, the High Court has ordered the Nigerian Police Force to pay a N1 million compensation to the victim of the beating. Ige was severely beaten and hospitalised before she was rescued by her school and then reported the incident to the police.
The incident occurred in 2010, at the Fayose market in Ado-Ekiti, where the victim was assaulted while buying materials for school. The Punch Metro took an account of the incident when it happened and she explained what happened before she was hospitalised.
She said, “I went to Fayose Market to buy some fingerlings for my project. As I was coming back, a policeman met me and said he wanted to search my hand bag. I told him to empty the contents of the bag right there in the market because I am aware of their tricks.
“He said ‘no’ and snatched the bag from me and took it to their station. After I finished buying other things I needed, I went to the station, since it is not far from where he met me. As I got there, he said that he would deal with me because I refused to allow him to search my bag in the market. He asked me to enter the cell and I refused, because I knew I had not committed any offence.
“Thereafter, two policemen and two policewomen came out and started beating me. When I became tired, they now dragged me inside the cell. The first policeman, Femi, came inside the cell with a plank and hit me on the head four times. A policewoman came inside the cell and pleaded that they should leave me but they refused. I later passed out. But before then, they said that if I died, nothing would happen.”
In their follow up, the Punch reported that in addition to the large sum of money the presiding judge, Justice M.O. Abodunde, while delivering judgment in a case filed by the victim, also ordered the police to pay N8,490 which was spent to treat the victim who was on admission for five days at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti.
A copy of the judgment was made available to journalists in Ado-Ekiti on Friday by the coalition of human rights lawyers who represented the victims in the court.
Ige was a final year student of microbiology at the Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti on June 21, 2010 when she was brutalised by policemen on her way back to school after buying fingerlings needed for her final year project.
Oluwaseyi Ojo of Directorate of Citizens Right, Ekiti State Ministry of Justice, Chairperson of FIDA, Mrs. Toyin Ajibulu; Rita Ilevbare of Community Law Centre; Mrs. Funmi Bello, Olajumoke Olute and As’mau Baderinwa of Legal Aid council represented Ige.
The counsel, in suit no HAD/449M/10, had dragged the Commissioner of Police in the state, and the police officers, Femi Olujuyayetan, Gbenga Babalola and Dupe Emonigbede before the court seeking an order directing the respondents to pay N50m as exemplary damages to Ige for violating her right to personal dignity.
The court dismissed the argument of the respondents and ruled that although the police had the statutory duty to protect lives and arrest persons suspected to have committed crimes, the police officer were simply power-drunk and violated the rights of the applicant.
“I hereby declare that the agony, pain, suffering, inconvenience and the trauma which the applicant had been subjected to by 2nd-4th respondens agents of the 1st respondent is a violation of the applicant’s rights to personal dignity as guaranteed by Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,” the judge said.