⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
HRH Eze Emmanuel Irondi Ogbonna v. Amaechi Egbulefu & Ors (2018) – CA
HRH Eze Emmanuel Irondi Ogbonna
1. Amaechi Egbulefu
2. Commissioner Of Police Abia State
3. C.S.P James P. Esuong (MCCU)
4. INSP. Samuel Inyang (MCCU) State Police Headquarters, Umuahia
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Ita George Mbaba, JCA
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Okafor Esq.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
The appellant submitted a list of suspects in a letter to the Police. The 1st respondent’s name was contained in the letter. The 1st respondent name was included in the list because he was one of the youths who attacked the Appellant’s palace. The Appellant’s palace was robbed and its’ dogs were killed. And so the Appellant reported to the Police.
This led the police to detain the 1st respondent for a certain period. He stayed without food, and was allowed no access to his lawyer, including torture imposed on him, according to the 1st respondent.
Hence, he filed a fundamental right action at the High Court. Judgement was given in his favour. Dissatisfied, the Appellant has appealed.
(1) Whether the learned trial Judge was right, to hold that the 1st Respondent was detained in Police Custody from 18th June, 2008 to the 23rd day of June, 2008 when the 1st Respondent was remanded in prison Custody by a Court of competent jurisdiction.
(2) Whether the learned trial Judge was right to hold that the 1st Respondent established his claim of unlawful detention against the Appellant.
(3) Whether the learned trial Judge was right to award the sum of N80,000.00 as exemplary damages against the Appellant jointly and severally with the 2nd – 4th Respondents, when the Appellant did not infringe on the fundamental rights of the 1st Respondent.
(4) Whether the learned trial Judge was right to make use of the further affidavit filed by the 1st Respondent, when it was filed in breach of the rules.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. On issue 1, the Court of Appeal held for the 1st respondent.
i. I cannot find any logical or legal relevance in/for the said issue one, Appellant having accepted the fact that 1st Respondent was arrested on 17/6/08 and detained by the Police until when the Magistrate’s Court made an order, on 23/6/08, for his (Applicant’s) remand in prison custody, on that 23/6/08.
ii. it would appear Appellant is only quarrelling that the trial Court included the 23rd June 2008 (from the time/moment on that date when the learned Chief Magistrate made the order of demand of 1st Respondent in prison custody and 24th June, 2008) among the period 1st Respondent was unlawfully detained. In other words, he wanted part of the 23/6/08 and 24/6/08, subtracted from the six days which the trial Court held that 1st Respondent was unlawfully, detained. Of course, even if that period that enjoyed the order of the Chief Magistrate were deducted from the six days calculated by the trial Judge, it would still mean that the 1st Respondent was, unlawfully, detained by 2nd to 4th Respondents from 17th to 23rd June, 2008, before he was arraigned before the Chief Magistrate. By law, that would still amount to unlawful detention, as the limit/amount of time may not be material to prove unlawful detention.
iii. The trial Court had found that the arrest of the 1st Respondent on 17/6/08 was lawful, but that his continuous detention from 18/6/08 to 24/6/08 (or to 23/6/08, when the Chief Magistrate made order of demand), was a gross violation of his rights, as enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. See page 109 of the Records. Of course, that finding has not been appealed against by the 2nd to 4th Respondents, who detained the 1st Respondents for that period, and so that finding remains binding and conclusive.
2. On issue 2, the Court of Appeal held that the Appellant was not responsible for the detention of the 1st respondent.
i. There are many judicial authorities to the effect that, a complainant, for merely making a report to the Police, does no wrong, and cannot be visited with liabilities, resulting from what the Police did with his complaint. The complainant can only be faulted and held accountable, if the report was made malafide, maliciously or falsely and/or that the complainant sponsored the harassment and/or malicious violation of the fundamental rights of the victim out of mischief, using the guise of the petition/complaint to the Police.
ii. Where the complaint is founded on bona fide complaint of commission of crime: assault, threat to life, fraud, obtaining by false pretences, malicious damage, stealing and such other criminal complaints, where-of the complainant was a victim or was genuinely apprehensive of threat to his safety or right or safety of his property, he is excused by law, to complain and/or approach the Police or any law enforcement agency with complaint. Even where the Police or the said agency mishandles the report, and violate the rights of a citizen, in the course of investigation of or action on the complaint, that is the business/responsibility of the Police or law enforcement agency.
3. On issue 3, the Court of Appeal held for the Appellant, it stated, “of course, the damages does not concern the Appellant, again, upon the holding that he was not liable and could not be held to have been a party to the violation of 1st Respondent’s (Applicant) fundamental rights, just by reporting commission of offence at his palace to the police.”
4. On issue 4, the Court of Appeal held, “the issue 4, which appears to have been misconceived, as the 1st Respondent (as Applicant), never filed a further affidavit to (or against) the Appellant’s Counter-affidavit, but to/against the Counter affidavit, filed by the 2nd to 4th Respondents. See page 40 of the Records of Appeal where it is clearly stated, on the face of the further Affidavit, that it was filed in response to the Counter affidavit of 2nd to the 4th Respondents. The body of the further affidavit also states that much. To that extent, the Issue 4 has no place in this appeal, having queried the trial Judge’s right to make use of the further affidavit, which Counsel said the same was not necessary as Appellant did not raise any new issue in his Counter affidavit to warrant it. Because the said further affidavit was not directed at Appellant’s Counter affidavit, Appellant cannot raise that complaint.
Section 4 Police Act;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
A Respondent has a duty to argue to defend and protect the judgment of the lower Court appealed against. But where the Respondent, as in this case, was fighting on the same side with the Appellant at the Court below, and so was on the receiving end of the unfavourable judgment, as the Appellant, it may elect to appeal, separately, or rely on the appeal by the Appellant as co-Appellant. And in such a situation, it would not be made a Respondent, but co-appellant, being practically on the same side and page with the Appellant. Where he was made a Respondent, as in this case, to oppose the judgment, he has to file a cross appeal or respondent’s notice. – Mbaba, JCA. Ogbonna v. Amaechi & Ors (2018)
As stated earlier, where a Respondent is forced by the Appellant (who filed the appeal and made him a Respondent) to acquire the opposition status, whereas, he is actually in support of the appeal, I think, it will be proper for the said Respondent not to file any Brief either for or against the Appeal in order to protect the legal conscience of the Respondent’s Counsel. That may not however stop the Respondent or his Counsel from telling the Court, orally, that he is not opposed to the appeal, without resorting to any argument. – Mbaba, JCA. Ogbonna v. Amaechi & Ors (2018)
Generally, it is the duty of citizens of Nigeria to report cases of commission of crime to the Police for their investigation. What happens after such report is entirely the responsibility of the Police. In other words, citizens of Nigeria cannot be held culpable for doing their civic duty, unless it is shown that it was done malafide. – Mbaba, JCA. Ogbonna v. Amaechi & Ors (2018)
The law is trite that: where an individual had lodged to the Police, by way of Petition and the police have thereupon on their own proceeded to carry out arrest and detention, the act of imprisonment is that of the Police. – Mbaba, JCA. Ogbonna v. Amaechi & Ors (2018)