Sunday Adeyemo
Igboho (middle)

Nigeria’s federal government has said it will appeal the judgment of an Oyo State High Court that awarded N20bn in damages against the Department of State Services in favour of Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.

He said efforts were already being made to commence the process of appealing the judgment.

Justice Ladiran Akintola of the Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan had on Friday ordered the Federal Government to pay Igboho N20bn as damages for the invasion of his residence in Ibadan and destruction of his property.

The judge, while delivering judgment in the fundamental human rights enforcement suit, ruled that the DSS should not harass or arrest Igboho or invade his residence. The court held that Igboho has the right to his free movement as contained in Section 35.1 (a)(b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The judge also restrained the respondents, AGF and DSS, their agents, privies or associates in other security forces or anybody acting on their behalf or instructions from blocking the accounts of the Igboho in any bank or placing no debit thereon. He therefore directed them to lift the embargo where they had done so.

Operatives of the DSS had on July 1 raided the Soka residence of Igboho and killed two persons during the invasion. The secret police also arrested 12 persons in the house but Igboho escaped. He was later arrested in Benin Republic.

Igboho’s counsel, Chief Yomi Aliyu (SAN), told the court that his client’s house, vehicles and other valuables were destroyed during the invasion. He asked for damages of N500bn and an order restraining the DSS and the AGF from arresting him or freezing his accounts.

But Counsel for the AGF, Mr Abdullah Abubakar, argued that there was no evidence before the court that the blood seen in the video clip tendered by Aliyu was that of a human being.

Abubakar also said there was nothing in the video clip that showed the house invaded belonged to Igboho or linked the AGF to the invasion. He had urged the court to disregard the exhibits and dismiss the entire suit.

The Counsel for the DSS, Mr T. A. Nurudeen, aligned with the submission made by the AGF’s counsel as he insisted that there must be a proof from a hematologist to show that the blood seen in the video was that of a human being.

Nurudeen also tendered a video clip which was admitted by the court, where Igboho allegedly threatened to create an Oduduwa Republic, while urging the Yoruba to protect themselves with charms and guns.

In his ruling on Friday, the judge ordered the Federal Government to pay Igboho N20bn as damages. He noted that despite being a state high court, it had the jurisdiction to hear the suit because the invasion of the applicant’s house happened within the jurisdiction of the court.

“The reckless and indiscriminate shooting by the second and third respondents and their agents, which resulted in the death of two persons, was in itself a threat to the life of the applicant. Nobody shoots guns in order to entertain the people. Such conduct has a serious potential of killing the victim, and at best, constitutes a serious threat to the life of the people,” he said.

“It is difficult to believe that the cache of arms and ammunition allegedly recovered from the residence of the applicant really came from there.”

He said further that in the absence of any evidence that Nigeria was in a state of war, the style and procedure adopted by the second and third respondents and their agents was “highly condemnable, reprehensible, crude and most unprofessional.”

He pointed out that with the arms allegedly recovered from Ighoho’s house compared to damages done, the deaths and the trauma inflicted on the applicant, his guests and neighbourhood, it remained doubtful if the exercise was worth it.

He added, “The style adopted by the second and third respondents in the case should be condemned in strongest possible terms, especially given the fact that they are maintained by Nigerian taxpayers. Yet, they did not hesitate to unleash such mayhem on a Nigerian citizen, who has not been pronounced guilty of any crime by any court in the land.”

The judge said it would have been desirable if the identity of the agents who carried out the invasion so they could be liable for their infraction.

The court held that Igboho and his group have a right to self-determination and are free to hold their rallies as long as it is peaceful. Justice Akintola ruled that self-determination was one of the fundamental human rights of the citizens and it cannot be subjugated.

The judge also awarded N2m cost in favour of the applicant.