Baba Suwe: Appeal Court hears arguments, reserves judgment

Lagos – The Court of Appeal, Lagos on Thursday reserved judgment in a suit challenging a high court judgment which ordered the payment of N25 million compensatory damage to Mr Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as “Baba Suwe’’.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), which was ordered to pay the popular actor the sum, is urging the appellate court to upturn the judgment.

Justice Yetunde Idowu of the Lagos High Court had made the order in a judgment delivered on Nov. 24, 2011.

The money is to serve as compensation for breach of Omidina’s fundamental rights following his detention on false allegations of drug trafficking.

She had held that the prolonged detention of the popular actor by the NDLEA, without being charged to court, was “unjustifiable”.

On Thursday, the panel of justices of the appellate court, presided over by Mr Chima Nweze, reserved judgment in the appeal after counsel to both the appellant and respondent had argued their briefs.

Adopting his brief of argument dated Feb. 3, 2012, counsel to NDLEA, Mr Femi Oloruntoba, urged the court to set aside the judgment of the lower court

Oloruntoba argued that the lower court erred in law when it held that the respondent was illegally detained for nine days.

He said that an order of the Federal High Court was obtained before the arrest and detention was made and so the trial court had no basis in arriving at its judgment.

The counsel said that the damage sum of N25 million was outrageous and did not follow laid down principles of law.

Oloruntoba argued that in the first instance, the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the fundamental rights application filed by the respondent, which rendered the entire judgment faulty.

He said that the contention of the respondent that the exhibits presented by the NDLEA before the court ought to be certified true copies, was erroneous.

Oloruntoba argued that while Exhibits one and two (scan conducted on respondent) were public documents that required certification, Exhibit three (photograph of drug defecated by a drug trafficker) was not a public document and so, needed not be certified.

He, therefore, urged the appellate court to dismiss the judgment of the lower court.

The respondent’s counsel, Mr Bamidele Aturu, on his part, urged the court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the lower court.

He described the appeal as “unmeritorious,’’ noting that the NDLEA, an agency of the Federal Government, ought to ensure that all exhibits presented in court as evidence, were duly certified.

Aturu described all the exhibits presented by the NDLEA as “worthless’’ and urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit.

Justice Nweze said that judgment would be delivered on a date that will be communicated to the parties.

Baba Suwe was arrested by operatives of the NDLEA at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on the Oct. 12, 2011 on allegations of ingestion of a restricted narcotic substance.

He was detained for some days to see whether he would excrete the substance he was believed to have ingested.

The actor, however, did not excrete any such substance throughout the period of his detention. (NAN)

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