The Akwa Ibom State High Court sitting in Itu, has given the Chief of Army Staff, twenty days, to write an apology letter to the Clan Head of Oku Iboku, Etebom Ubong Essien Edet Okokon, over the gross infringement of his fundamental rights by officers of the Nigerian Army in Akwa Ibom State.
The Court, presided over by Justice Ntong Ntong also ordered the indicted soldiers, Captain Ibrahim and Brigadier T.A. Lagbaja of the Two Brigade Headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo, to jointly pay one million Naira to the monarch for the aggravated breach of his fundamental rights from 6th to 13th of August, 2019.
In a one-hour judgment, Justice Ntong held that the two soldiers humiliated and tortured the Clan Head in the course of interviewing him over allegation that he was involved in the missing of four boats in his domains.
The Court described Akwa Ibom State Government as responsible and responsive, stressing that although the Army officers were engaged in the investigation of the missing boats, it is not the government that asked them to maltreat the traditional ruler.
The judge noted that the two indicted Army officers were overzealous in the course of carrying out their lawful duties.
Justice Ntong said that the soldiers ought to have shown respect and dignity to the person of the applicant, not because he is a traditional ruler, but because he is a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is entitled to the respect of his fundamental rights as enshrined in Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution.
He said even if the monarch was suspected to have been involved in the alleged missing of the four boats, the Nigerian Army and its officers, who were asked to investigate the matter, ought to have treated Etebom Ubong Okokon with some modicum of respect.
The Court ruled that the days when military men, treated their civilian counterparts with impunity and disdain, were gone and gone forever in Nigeria.
Justice Ntong held that the Army Officers, Captain Ibrahim and Brigadier T.A. Lagbaja were personally liable for the infringement of the rights of the Clan Head.
He explained that the Court was not shielding and cannot shield Etebom Ubong Okokon from investigation of any criminal allegation, but that the investigating body should do so within the purview and ambit of the Law.
Justice Ntong declared that the arrest, detention, harassment, humiliation and torture of the royal father from 6th to 13th of August last years, was unlawful, unconstitutional and a gross breach of his rights, which the soldiers must pay for it.
The Court held that the Chief of Army Staff should apologize to the Clan Head of Oku Iboku within twenty days, while the indicted officers should pay one million Naira as compensation for the breach of the rights of the royal father.