Entertainer and social crusader, Charles Oputa, also known as “Charly Boy” or “Area Fada”, has filed a N500 million suit against the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory Police Command, challenging, among others, the alleged use of teargas canisters, water cannons and police dogs against him by the Police during a peaceful demonstration at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, on August 8, 2017.
Mr. Oputa, in suit no: FCT/HC/CV/3037/17, in a matter for the enforcement of his fundamental rights to dignity of the human person, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, is seeking for an order of the court directing the Nigerian Police to pay the sum of N500 million; N100 million as general damages and N400 million as exemplary damages to the applicant for the violation of his fundamental rights.
The application was, through his counsel, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based legal practitioner, in an originating motion dated October 4, 2017 brought pursuant to Sections 34, 39, 40 and 46(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Articles 5, 9 and 10 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP A9 Laws of the Federation (LFN) 2004, Order II, Order XI and XII of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009.
Mr. Oputa, who on August 8, 2017 led a demonstration along with Deji Adeyanju and a few others under the aegis of #OurMumuDonDo and Concerned Nigerians were attacked with teargas canisters, water cannons and about 30 dogs by the Police at the Unity Fountain.
The attack was seven days before another attack on the group by stone-throwing Pro-Buhari Protesters at Wuse Market where many where wounded including a Guardian Reporter, Oludare Richards. Mr. Oputa said a report of the attack was filed but the Police has done nothing about it.
Oputa condemned the reaction of the Police at the Unity Fountain, recounting how anti-riot policemen attacked protesters. He said he was hit with the butt of a rifle on his eye by a policeman, which resulted in his slump and was quickly rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Charly Boy resumed the next day to address a press briefing after having been rushed to a hospital after his collapse the previous day following tear gas and water cannon shots fired at him by policemen who were alleged to have been aggressive in their efforts to curb the group’s activities.
While the “Concerned Nigerians” coalition maintained their demand on President Buhari’s resumption or resignation, the “Our Mumu Don Do” chant was done under the watchful eyes of soldiers, Department of State Services (DSS) and the police in vans stationed around the protest area. Essentially, the protest at the Unity Fountain was against President Buhari staying for over 90 days in London, United Kingdom on a medical vacation.
To this end, Mr. Oputa is seeking, among others, a declaration of the court that the use of teargas canisters, water cannons and wild police dogs by agents and officers of the Respondent to attack, harass and disperse the applicant during a peaceful demonstration at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 and a breach of the applicant’s fundamental right to dignity of the human person and contrary to Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 5, of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP A9 Laws of the Federation (LFN) 2004, Order II, Order XI and XII of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009.
He is also seeking a declaration of the court that the use of teargas canisters, water cannons and wild police dogs by agents and officers of the Respondent to attack, harass and disperse the applicant during a peaceful demonstration at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 where the applicant and other activist had gathered to demand that President Muhammadu Buhari should either return to the country from his long medical vacation in the United Kingdom or resign is unjustifiable, illegal, unconstitutional and amounts to a violation of the applicants fundamental right to freedom of expression and contrary to section 39 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 9, of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, CAP A9 Laws of the Federation (LFN) 2004.
Mr. Oputa prayed the court to determine whether he, with facts stated, is entitled to public apology, compensation, damages and other reliefs sought which also includes an order of the court to make a compelling order on the FCT Commissioner of Police to publish a public apology to him in five national newspapers. Attached to the affidavit, as exhibits are three video clips recorded during the attack.
Furthermore, he is seeking for an Order of Perpetual Injunction, restraining the Respondent and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) from further interfering with or violating the Applicant’s Fundamental Rights to Dignity of the human person, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Meanwhile, a date is yet to be fixed for the matter.
By Chinyere Obia