The Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday ordered the Nigerian Army to pay the family of the late Mr. Olajide Enilari N85million for causing his death.
The family sued the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, Attorney-General of the Federation, Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Finance and Administration, Private Friday Ameh and one Nimmack Nappon.
The family claimed Ameh and Nappon assaulted the deceased on January 29, 2009, which resulted in his death.
Among others, they sought a declaration that army’s failure to ensure that the deceased was given proper medical attention from the injury inflicted on him by Ameh and Nappon, violated his right to life as guaranteed by Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution.
The family sought N50million as exemplary/aggravated damages and N35million as general damages.
Justice Ibrahim Buba, in his verdict, agreed that the defendants “behaved in a most irresponsible, unaccountable, insensitive and callous way.”
A copy of the judgment, delivered on March 30, was made available to journalists on Friday.
The suit was filed by a human rights group, the Access to Justice (A2Justice) on April 28, 2009, on behalf of the deceased’s family.
Justice Buba held that the principle underlying the award of exemplary damages is that it would deter others from infringing similar rights.
“There is no case of some animals are more equal that the others in the eyes of the law and rule of law.
“If our courts do not through bold judicial activism say what the law is, and that men in uniform have no right to be assaulting innocent citizens and even cause their death, then there will be anarchy.
“In the circumstances of this case and having regards to the pleadings and evidence – both documentary and oral – the case of the plaintiffs has merit and this court upon a calm reflection upholds the case of the plaintiffs and hereby enter judgment for them,” Justice Idris held.
Justice Buba awarded N85, 545,000 as damages against the Nigerian Army for the assault and killing of late Mr. Enilari.
The family challenged the brutal assault of the late Mr. Enilari, a flour merchant, by officers of the Nigerian Army on January 27, 2009 along Airways junction in Apapa, Lagos.
Due to head injuries sustained during the assault, Mr. Enilari died on January 29, 2009.
Eyewitness said the deceased was standing alongside his truck driver when a vehicle suddenly hit him.
He ran towards the driver of the fleeing vehicle, but the occupants, who were military personnel, alighted and started beating him with iron butts of their belts and iron rod found on the side of the road.
When the case commenced, the defendants raised the issue of self-defense, alleging that the deceased first hit the military personnel driving the vehicle and ran away.
The defense counsel further argued that it was in the course of apprehending the deceased that an angry mob gathered with dangerous weapons to attack the officers, who then used the deceased as a human shield, to ward off the crowd at the scene of the crime.
After careful consideration of the evidence (oral and documentary) of the parties in the suit, the court found no merit in the defense.
Justice Buba was of the view that it was inconceivable that an armed mob would attack military officers for merely apprehending a civilian.
He said it was also unfathomable that none of the officers sustained any injury from the attack.
The court held that the assault, which resulted in the death of the deceased, was unlawful, wrong and a gross violation of his right to life.