Court to Deliver Judgment on July 3 in N100 Million Suit by Online Publisher Against Police, Dangote Refinery

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Mr. Alimi Adamu
Member of Media Rights Agenda’s Network of Lawyers

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed judgment for July 3, 2023, in a N100 million suit filed by Kings Communication Limited, publishers of the Money Management Series (MMS) online magazine, with support from Media Rights Agenda (MRA), against the Nigerian Police and Dangote Petroleum Refinery for alleged unlawful invasion of the premises of the media organization by policemen.

Justice Tijjani Ringim Garba, adjourned the suit for judgment on May 15, 2023, after the lawyers for the various parties in the suit adopted their written submissions in the application by Kings Communications for the enforcement of its fundamental right to freedom of expression and the press.

Mr. Alimi Adamu, a member of Media Rights Agenda’s network of lawyers on the safety of journalists, filed the suit on behalf of the Kings Communication on October 18, 2021 claiming that the invasion of the premises of the media organization as well as the intimidation and harassment of its employees on August 10, 2021 by the Police without a lawful order or warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction constituted gross violation of its fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information

Named as Respondents in the suit are the Nigerian Police, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 2, Onikan in Lagos; the Lagos State Commissioner of Police; Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Umar R. Shelling; Superintendent of Police Thomas Magaji; Dangote Petroleum Refinery, and its Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Mr. Anthony Chiejina.

Specifically, Kings Communication is seeking a declaration that the invasion of its premises in Festac Town, Lagos and the intimidation and harassment of its employees on August 10, 2021 by the Nigeria Police, its servants, agents, privies or representatives, without lawful order or warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction constitutes a gross violation of its fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

It is also asking the court to issue an injunction to restrain them, their servants, agents, privies, representatives or anyone acting for or on their behalf from further harassing, threatening, intimidating or in any other manner infringing on or interfering with the fundamental rights of the company and its employees as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution; and Articles 4, 5, and 14 of the African Charter.

The publishing company is seeking damages against the respondents, jointly and severally, of N100 Million as compensation for the severe damage caused by the invasion of its premises on August 10, 2021, without lawful order or a warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction.

Kings Communications Limited, publisher of Money Management Series (MMS) newspaper, filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court in Lagos claiming N100 million as damages against the Nigeria Police and Dangote Petroleum Refinery for their alleged gross violation of fundamental rights of the company and its employees on August 10, 2021 when its office in Lagos was invaded by the Police without a lawful order or warrant issued by a competent court.

The suit was filed on behalf of the company by human rights lawyer, Mr. Alimi Adamu, a member of Media Rights Agenda’s network of lawyers on the safety of journalists, leading three other freedom of expression lawyers, Ms Chioma Nwaodike, Ms Obioma Okonkwo, and Mr. Sideeq Rabiu.

At the May 15 hearing, Mr. Adamu appeared for Kings Communications while Mr. Zebedee Arhekhandia appeared for the Nigeria Police, the Inspector-General of Police, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 2 in Lagos; the Lagos State Commissioner of Police; the Deputy Commissioner of Police for Zone 2 Command in Lagos, DCP Shelleng, and Police Superintendent Magaji.

Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Mr. Chiejina were represented by Mr. Efundunmi Sowemimo.

Kings Communication claimed in the suit that on August 10, 2021, Mr. Chiejina, acting in the course of his employment with Dangote Petroleum Refinery, led agents and representatives of the Nigerian Police, without lawful order or a warrant of a Court of competent jurisdiction and invaded the company’s premises in Festac Town, Lagos for the purpose of harassing and intimating the company and its employees and in the process caused serious damage to the premises and disrupted it business and operations.

It contended that the invasion constituted a gross violation of the company’s fundamental rights guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The company said by virtue of Section 46 of the Constitution, any person who alleges the infringement or likelihood of infringement of his fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution can approach the courts for redress and insisted that the action of the Police and procedure adopted by them is not permitted by law and not justified by any of the provisions of the Constitution and the African Charter.

However, the Police opposed the suit and denied invading or raiding the media organization’s offices, saying policemen only went to the office to deliver an invitation letter to Mr Kingsley Anaroke, the Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of media outlet in the course of their investigation into a complaint of false and malicious publication against the online magazine.

The Police claimed that on August 9 2021, they received a petition signed by Mr Chiejina, an official of the Dangote Petroleum Refinery, alleging that Mr. Anaroke and others caused a false and malicious publication on the MMS magazine published by Kings Communication and that on August 10, 2021, as part of their investigation into the alleged crime, two plain clothes officers who were unarmed went to Kings Communication’s office in Festac Town  to deliver the invitation letter and met Mr Yusuf Odejobi, a reporter working with the organization, who introduced himself to them.

According to the Police, the officers invited Mr. Odejobi for formal interrogation, and he voluntarily followed them to their office.

The Police contended that its officers are statutorily empowered to investigate alleged crimes reported against any person or persons, including the alleged crimes of false and malicious online publication written against Mr Anaroke and others.