A COMEDIAN, Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe, has lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, which nullified the N25 million monetary compensation awarded to him by a Lagos High Court.
The monetary award was made in his favour against the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The notice of appeal filed by his counsel, Bamidele Aturu, on Friday, is praying the apex court to set aside the decision of the appeal court and uphold that of the trial court, which awarded monetary compensation to him. The Appeal Court had on May 31 quashed the judgment of the lower court, which ordered the NDLEA to pay him N25 million as compensation for detaining him for several days over allegation of drug trafficking.
Justice Yetunde Idowu of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja, had awarded the compensation (amount) to the comedian. But the appellate court, in its judgment delivered by Justice Rita Pemu, considered all the three vital grounds of appeal in favour of the appellant (NDLEA). The NDLEA had, in its appeal, asked the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court.
Justice Pemu, in her lead judgment, unanimously adopted by two other justices, namely: Chima Nweze and F. O. Akinbami, described the N25 million damages awarded to Baba Suwe as erroneous, oppressive and superfluous. Justice Pemu held that even though the trial judge had discretion to award costs in a fundamental human right suit, such award of damages must be based on law and not arbitrary.
In addition, the appellate court held that the lower court judge erred in law when it ordered NDLEA to pay Baba Suwe N25 million as compensation and that the appellant should publish a public apology in two widely read national newspapers. Justice Pemu said: “Damages must be based on law, even though it is at the discretion of the trial judge. The award of N25 million to the respondent was based on wrong premises and it is uncalled for.” She further held that no evidence was placed before the court to warrant such outrageous award, adding that the court ought not to have overburdened NDLEA with such award of damages.
On whether the NDLEA had reasonable causes to detain Baba Suwe from the day of his arrest (October 12, 2011) till October 21, 2011, when the Federal High Court order to detain him was obtained, Justice Pemu held that the agency was justified to do so. She added that the appellant placed before the lower court documentary evidence and exhibits being results of various scans conducted on Baba Suwe, which justified his detention for several days over allegation of drug trafficking.
On whether the Lagos State High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by the respondent (Baba Suwe), Justice Pemu held that based on the pleadings before the trial judge, it is the Federal High Court that has constitutional jurisdiction to entertain the suit and not the state High Court. NDLEA had in its eight-page notice of appeal, signed by Femi Oloruntoba, stated that the trial judge erred in law when she held that NDLEA was not justified to detain Baba Suwe from the day of his arrest (October 12, 2011) till October 21, 2011, when the Federal High Court order to detain him was obtained.
The appellant further stated that the trial judge erred in law and misdirected herself on facts when she held that the act of the NDLEA in detaining Baba Suwe for nine days was a flagrant abuse and infringement on his fundamental human right. Besides, the appellant argued that the lower court erred in law when it ordered it (NDLEA) to pay the applicant (Baba Suwe) N25 million as compensation and that the appellant should publish a public apology in two widely read national newspapers.
Dissatisfied with the court judgment, the agency in December last year filed a motion for stay of execution of the entire verdict and appealed against it.