Igboho: Federal Government Appeals Oyo High Court, Calls for Dismissal of N20bn Judgment

The Federal Government of Nigeria is asking an Oyo State High Court to reconsider the N20 billion damages against it, for illegally raiding Chief Sunday Igboho’s Soka residence in Ibadan on July 1, 2021.

In the notice of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, the appellants,
argued that they are dissatisfied with the judgment of Justice A. I. Akintola on September 17, 2021.

The appellants – Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the Department of State Services (DSS) – entreated the court, raising 18 grounds of appeal, and six issues of determination, to let the court to “set aside the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the case in its entirety”.

It would be recalled that some operatives of the DSS invaded Igboho’s Soka-Ibadan home between 1 a.m and 3 a.m on July 1, last year, shooting their way into the house and killing two of his men.

While Igboho escaped, they arrested 12 people in his house whom they later paraded, as well as ammunition and material items seized during the invasion.

Igboho has since July 19 been detained in Cotonou, Benin Republic, last year without any criminal charge.

However, the embattled Yoruba nation agitator who is still in a Benin Prison filed a suit against the AGF and the DSS director in Oyo state over the invasion, seeking N500 billion as damages for fundamental rights violation and destruction of his property.

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In its judgment, the court granted all the 16 reliefs sought and ordered the AGF and DSS to pay him N20 billion in aggravated damages, for all of the days he has spent in the prison.

Igboho also argued that the invasion of his home was illegal, while his rights to privacy and to own property were violated.

Meanwhile, the appellants particularly faulted the lower court’s judgement, saying it is a miscarriage of justice against them.

Arguing that the invasion did not violate Igboho’s fundamental rights, they also faulted Igboho’s claim, which the court affirmed, that the DSS personnel shot through the ceiling of the house, depriving Igboho of quiet enjoyment of his house for the period of the armed invasion, thereby violating his fundamental human rights against compulsory acquisition of his property and privacy.

The AGF and DSS also objected to the conclusion of the court that the invasion was “oppressive, malicious, arbitrary and grossly unconstitutional,” simply because of the claim that the DSS invaded Igboho’s house without announcing who they were and without asking him to open his gate but rather shot their way through, killing two people in violation of his rights.

They further objected, among others, to the court’s position that it is inequitable and unfair for the DSS to exhibit guns, ammunition and other dangerous weapons and incriminating documents in public and claim that the same belong to Igboho when the DSS personnel actually shot their way into the house without subjecting them and their convoy of vehicles to prior search by Igboho who neither signed any inventory nor search warrant containing inventory to that effect.

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Other specific reliefs granted by the lower court but which the appellants objected to include; the media trial by way of exhibiting prohibited or illegal items before the media as belonging to Igboho which the court held as usurpation of judicial power reserved for courts by the constitution and “violently violates Igboho’s right of presumed innocence until proven guilty by a court of law as prescribed by the constitution.

They also faulted the order directing DSS to return Igboho’s personal belongings which were seized during the invasion except “guns and ammunitions harvested by them from their armories including two guns belonging to police escorts of one of the guests of the Applicant and purporting same to be Applicant’s (Igboho’s).”

They generally faulted the judgment, stressing that the judge erred in law by assuming jurisdiction on the matter whereas three of the reliefs sought “are torts of malicious damage/invasion of property of the respondent” while two of the reliefs also sought by Igboho were not for enforcement of any fundamental right recognised under Chapter Four of the constitution.

They also insisted that the trial judge erred in law by assuming jurisdiction over the suit even though he “commenced the suit via a wrong mode of commencement.”

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Specifically, the appellants posited that the judge erred in law when he assumed jurisdiction and wrongly affirmed “the purported right of the respondent to campaign for the creation or establishment of Yoruba nation or Oduduwa Republic in Nigeria, when the constitution prohibits the divisibility of Nigeria.”

They also argued in the notice of appeal that the judge erred by relying heavily on the evidence of Igboho’s witness, Hamza Bashiru Ariyo, which they described as an improperly admitted evidence. They described the decision as a miscarriage of justice against them.

Now, the appellants through the six issues raised for determination, want the appellate court to declare that Igboho’s major claims were not founded under Chapter Four of the constitution, and that the lower court was wrong to have assumed jurisdiction over a complaint that was purely against the decision of a Federal Government agency.

They also want the court to declare Igboho’s originating process which was supported by two affidavits as incompetent with regard to Order II Rule 3 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009; and that the Judge was wrong to have held that Igboho has the statutory and constitutional right “to propagate the establishment of the Yoruba and Oduduwa nation in Nigeria.”

They further prayed the appellate court to hold that the allegations against Igboho were such that would warrant the DSS personnel to carry out a sting operation on his house.

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