Updated: March 2, 2021
The Federal High Court in Lagos has awarded N1m against the Federal Government over the police disruption of the August 5, 2019 #RevolutionNow protest.
The court awarded the N1m in favour of a Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, who said he participated in the protest and was among those tear-gassed by security agents.
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The nationwide protest was convened by rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested by the Department of State Services on August 3, 2019 and only released on December 24, 2019.
The court, in a judgment by Justice Maureen Onyetenu, declared the disruption of the peaceful protest by the Nigerian Government through the police, as “illegal, oppressive, undemocratic and unconstitutional”.
The judge agreed with the applicant in the suit, Ogungbeje, who sued on behalf of himself and other participants in the protest that the Nigerian Government deprived them of their right to peaceful assembly and association in violation of sections 38, 39 and 40 of the 1999 constitution.
The judge also condemned “the mass arrest, harassment, tear-gassing, and clamping into detention” of the protesters.
Ogungbeje had urged the court to award N500m as general and exemplary damages against the Nigerian Government, DSS and the Attorney-General of the Federation, but the court only awarded N1m.
The judge also upheld the defence of the DSS that it was not involved in the disruption of the protest.
In the affidavit, which he filed in support of the suit, Ogungbeje said when he was co-opted into the #RevolutionNow protest, as a lawyer, he checked the constitution and found that it was lawful.
He however, said on getting to the take-off point of the protest in Lagos, “I met agents and operatives of the respondents who had barricaded the venue of the peaceful protest for good governance in Nigeria.
“I was tear-gassed by agents of the respondents and the peaceful protest was forcefully disrupted by the respondents.
“I have been denied my fundamental constitutional rights of peaceful assembly and association by the respondents without cause.”
Apart from the N1m award, the court also ordered the Nigerian Government to tender a public apology to the applicant in three national daily newspapers.