A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday, struck out a fundamental rights enforcement procedure suit filed by Chukwudumeme Onwamadike (a.k.a. Evans), an alleged kidnap kingpin, against the Police over seizure of his property.
Ruling on the case, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the case, noting that the suit ought to have been filed before a Lagos State High Court, before which the applicant was facing charges of kidnapping.
Evans, through his counsel, Olukoya Ogungbeje, filed the suit in June 2018 and joined the Inspector-General of Police, the Nigeria Police and IGP’s Intelligence Response Team, as respondents. In the suit, he prayed the court to declare that the alleged forceful seizure of his property by the respondents, without any court order, was illegal and unconstitutional.
The properties listed included N500million, another N500million, two residential houses located at Magodo, Lagos State, a Brigade wristwatch worth $20,000, necklaces worth $25,000 and five pieces of diamond rings. Also listed are one Lexus 470, a Grand Cherokee, a Toyota Highlander, 85 Samsung television sets, 45KVA generator, 22KVA generator, 20KVA inverter worth N10million and five sets of freezers.
Evans had sought a declaration releasing the property, just as he asked the court for an order compelling the respondents to unconditionally unseal and vacate without delay, the two residential houses located at Magodo.
The judge noted that the respondents did not file any defence, in spite of being served hearing notices, and held that when confronted with a claim under the fundamental rights enforcement procedure, it would be important for the court to critically look at the reliefs sought. According to her, the main issue to be decided is whether the plaintiff’s claim constitutes a violation of his rights under the Fundamental Human Rights Procedure, adding that the right to own property cannot be denied except for the due process of the law.
She held that the applicant failed to show that, within the circumstances of his arrest, the properties were forcefully seized. “The only conclusion I can draw is that the property were taken consequent upon his trial for kidnapping before the Lagos State High Court. This court must be careful not to interfere with due process of the ongoing trial of the applicant before the Lagos State High Court. This court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this case; same is hereby struck out,” the judge said.
Other prayers sought by Evans included an order compelling the respondents to apologise to him and pay him N1billion as damages for the alleged forceful seizure of his property. He also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from taking any action against him or any of his property in relation to this case.