By Niyi Olutunde, Akure
A Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mr Tope Temokun, has dragged the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, before the Federal High Court, sitting in Akure, Ondo state capital for non-compliance with an order of the court.
It would be recalled that the court had on April 4 ordered the Nigerian Army to pay a sum of N10 million naira, being damages awarded against it for assault and unlawful detention of an Okitipupa-based lawyer, Mr Zerubbabel Omoyele.
Temokun, counsel to the assaulted lawyer, while submitting the suit before the court said he had again approached the court on November 15 to issue FORM 48 against Buratai, asking him to obey the court order or risk a jail term.
According to Temokun, Omoyele, who is a lawyer, was brutally assaulted and detained on March 11, 2013 by Captain M.C. Ndubuisi and one Hassan Habila, both military officers at the Naquora Barracks, Okitipupa.
He explained that Omoyele was trying to obtain evidence of assault on a client who had earlier been detained in the military cell, when the two soldiers pounced on him.
Temokun said that trouble started when Omoyele invited a photographer to snap his unlawfully detained client who had sustained a severe head injury after being beaten and assaulted with a broken bottle by the said officers.
His words, “Omoyele was manhandled and humiliated by a junior military officer, Hassan Habila, on the order of his superior, Captain M.C. Ndubuisi.
“He was arrested and forcibly taken to the Naquora Barracks, Okitipupa, where he was unlawfully detained from the hour of 8:30 am to 1 pm.
“Consequently, on Oct. 8 2013, we sued the erring officers, joining the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff and the Commanding Officer, 19 Battalion, Naquora Barracks, Okitipupa, for infringement on Omoyele’s fundamental human right”.
In an application filed in SUIT NO. FHC/AK/CS/69/2013, Temokun had argued that the acts of the military officers constituted a violation of his client’s fundamental rights and personal liberty by a body which is saddled with the responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of the country.
He had, therefore, urged the court to award punitive damages against the Army for the “unjust, immoral and oppressive treatment” meted out to his client.
“judgment was delivered in our favour by Justice I.M. Sanni on March 4, 2015, ordering the Nigerian Army to pay our client a sum of N10 million, being exemplary damages for the violations of applicant’s fundamental rights,” he said.
Temokun said that the court passed a second judgment on the issue on April 4, following failure of the Nigerian Army to comply with the first judgment.
According to him, the court, presided over by Justice F.A. Olubanjo, had upheld the first judgment, ordering the Nigerian Army to deposit the judgment sum with the Registrar of the Court within 21 days of making the order.
“But the Nigerian Army still flagrantly flouted the order of the court following which I had to petition the Chief of Army Staff, via a letter dated 6th of August 2017, Ref. No. TTC/P/061/2017, asking him to comply with the court order or face contempt charge.
“It was the persistent refusal of the Army to obey the court order that forced me to approach the court on the November 15 to issue FORM 48 against Buratai, asking him to comply with the order or be prepared to go to prison,” Temokun said.