Human Rights Allegation: Court Clears MAN Rector
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Justice Okon A. Okon of the High Court of Ibiono, Uyo Division has cleared the Rector of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Commodore Duja Effedua (Rtd) of any wrong in reporting attempts to blackmail him to the police for investigation.
The case which came up on the backdrop of the invitation of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies by the Rector to investigate and unravel characters behind spate of blackmail attempts, smear publications and other allegations made against him and his management team in the past couple of years.
The case with Suit No. HIT/FHR/12/2020 is between Edet Okon Okpo (Applicant) and Commodore Emmanuel Effedua (Rtd) – Rector Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron (1st Respondent), Inspector Patrick Edet (IPO. Police Zonal Head Quarters, Zone 6) (2nd Respondent) and Assistant Inspector General; and AIG of Police, Calabar (3rd Respondent).
Justice Okon A. Okon not only dismissed the suit against Effedua in its entirety, he said the Rector has the duty as a citizen to seek the intervention of the security agencies against threats to his life.
In his judgment, Justice Okon said, “I find no credible evidence to find that the 1st Respondent instigated the arrest and detention of the Applicant (Edet Okpo) beyond sending his petition to the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to investigate in exercise of his civic duties to report possible commission of crime to the police for investigation.
“Even the applicant has admitted that the 1st Respondent received threatening messages which entailed blackmail and criminal extortion etc. Generally, it is the duty of citizens to report case of commission of crime to the police for investigation and what happens after such report is entirely the responsibility of the police.
“The citizens cannot be held culpable for doing their civic duty unless it is shown that it is done mala fide. That I find no evidence of mala fide on the part of the 1st Respondent in writing his petition to the third Respondent which petition was not even directly written against the Applicant”.
He continues: “It is the decision of the Court that the 1st Respondent is found not liable for any evisceration of the right of the Applicant as asserted by the Applicant in the detention of the Applicant by the 2nd and 3rd Respondent from 17th to 23rd July 2020 in breach of section 35 (4) and (5) and Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)”.
Strangely, despite the unambiguous court ruling, some persons clearly out of desperation to assume imaginary victory over the case of blackmail and cyber crime brought against them by the federal government are already twisting the judgment made by the court to suit their prejudices and cause confusion amongst un-warring members of the public; in view of the ongoing suspected blackmailers trial at a Calabar Federal High Court.
Nor is the case conclusive, as Justice Okon announced adjournment to 15th March, 2022, for continuation of the trial within trial.
It will be recalled that an ongoing case with Suit No. FHC/CA/51C/2020 between Inspector General of Police and Edet Ekpo (Defendant) was pending before the Federal High Court, Calabar, before the defendant instituted Suit No. HIT/FHR/12/2020 which came up for hearing on the 16th February 2022; in which the Uyo High Court Division delivered a Ruling on the trial within trial.
At the hearing, the Judge admitted the confessional statement of the defendant in evidence. According to the ruling of the Court, the Defendant had on 24th November, 2021, denied making the said confessional statement which compelled the Court to conduct a trial within trial to ascertain the admissibility of the confessional statement or otherwise.
The case has therefore been adjourned to the 15th March, 2022 for continuation of trial.