Appeal court sets aside N25m damages to Baba Suwe


babatunde_omidinaThe Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, on Friday set aside the judgment of a lower court which awarded N25 million to Mr Babatunde Omidina, as damages for breach of his fundamental right.

The lead judge, Justice Rita Pemu, set aside the judgment of the lower court, describing the award of damages as baseless and pervasive.

Pemu held that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the fundamental rights application filed by Omidina.

She further held that there was no way a fundamental rights suit could be heard without going into the substantive issue.

“Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution provides that drugs and poison related cases are exclusively for the Federal High Courts.

“The NDLEA had good reasons to detain the respondent as they did.

“The scan conducted on the respondent was in line with the suspicion of the agency, who no doubt was conscious of the fundamental rights of the respondent.

“The N25 million damages is unwarranted, pervasive and unnecessary. This appeal hereby succeeds and the judgment of the lower court is hereby set aside,” she said.

The judgment delivered by Pemu was affirmed by Justices Chima Nweze and F.O Akinbami.

Omidina, alias Baba Suwe, had sued the NDLEA before an Ikeja High Court, claiming damages for unlawful detention in custody, on suspicions of drug ingestion.

The counsel to Omidina, Mr Bamidele Aturu, had argued that his client was wrongly detained on allegations of ingesting a narcotic, adding that the allegations eventually turned out to be baseless.

The judge at the lower court, Justice Yetunde Idowu, had ordered the NDLEA to pay N25 million to the Yoruba actor, in addition to a public apology to be made to him in two national dailies.

The NDLEA filed an appeal on Dec. 16, 2011, praying the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court. for being unreasonable.

The counsel to NDLEA, Mr Femi Oloruntoba, said the lower court wrongly assumed jurisdiction since the case was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.

NDLEA argued that the detention of Omidina was based on reasonable suspicions of drug ingestion, which was in line with the mandate of the agency.

Baba Suwe was arrested by NDLEA at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on October 12, 2011, on his way to Paris, France.

He was detained by the agency on suspicions of drug ingestion.

During the period, he defecated but no drug was found in his faeces.

He then filed an action against the agency for unlawful detention.


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