From Godwin Tsa Abuja
The Federal High Court, yesterday, ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), to release a detained Facebook user, Mbarak Bala, who was arrested in Kaduna on February 28, 2020 for alleged blasphemous posts about Islam.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja division of the court said Bala’ arrest and detention by the IGP and the NPF in an unknown detention centre since February 28, 2020, was illegal and an infringement of his fundamental human rights.
Specifically, Ekwo said the arrest and detention of the applicant “because he expressed his option about religion on Facebook, constitutes an infraction of the applicant’s rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, freedom of express and freedom of movement.”
Besides, the court further declared the action of the respondents (IGP and NPF) “in denying the applicant access to his lawyers constitutes a gross infringement of the applicant right to legal rep of his choice under section 34 and 35(2) of the 1999 Constitution.”
Accordingly, the court made an order “directing the respondents to release the applicant from detention to his lawyers on bail forthwith.”
In addition, it made award of “general/exemplary damages against the first and second respondents in the sum of N250,000 for the infraction of the fundamental rights of the applicant.”
In the fundamental human rights enforcement suit, the applicant had sued the IGP, the NPF, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) alleging that the respondents violated his rights.
Ekwo observed in his judgment, yesterday, that the IGP and the NPF never showed up in the case despite being served with the processes in the suit filed by the applicant and the hearing notices with regard to the case.
But, the judge discontinued the case against the AGF on the basis that the matter disclosed no cause of action against the AGF.
The judge ruled that the affidavit evidence put forward by the applicant not being challenged or controverted by the respondents was deemed admitted and could be relied on by the court.
The applicant was said to have been arrested by the respondents on Tuesday, February 28, 2020, and detained at Gbabasawa Police Station, Kaduna State, on the instruction of Kano State Police Command.
His lawyer stated in the suit that the applicant was arrested on the basis of a petition written by some Kano-based persons, alleging “that the applicant insulted the Prophet of Islam Mohammed (PBUH).”
Upon his arrest, his lawyers wrote to the IGP requesting that he should be transferred to Abuja to face prosecution because his life was being threatened in Kano.