The Court of Appeal in Lagos is to hear arguments today on the appeal by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency against the judgment ordering it to pay N25m as damages to Yoruba actor, Babatunde Omidina, aka Baba Suwe in 2011 for keeping him in custody beyond the legal time limit on the suspicion of drug ingestion.
The agency was also ordered to apologise to Baba Suwe publicly on “conspicuous pages of two national daily newspapers” but the NDLEA insisted in its appeal that keeping the actor in custody between October 12 and 21, 2011 on the suspicion that the drug was ingested did not violate his rights.
According to reports, the hearing has come more than one year after the NDLEA filed its notice of appeal against the judgment delivered by a Lagos High Court, Ikeja on November 24, 2011.
The Punch reports:
The NDLEA, in its five-ground notice of appeal, urged the appellate court to set aside the judgment on, among other grounds, that the award of N25m in favour of Baba Suwe was arbitrary and that the court wrongly assumed jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Both Director of Prosecutions and Legal Services of the anti-drug agency, Mr. Femi Oloruntoba, and Baba Suwe’s counsel, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, confirmed on Thursday that the appellate court had invited them to argue the appeal today (Friday).
The trial judge, Justice Yetunde Idowu, had in her judgment on November 24, 2011, ordered the agency to pay N25m to the actor But Contrary to the judgment, The agency insisted that “there was an order of the Federal High Court on October 21, 2011 for a further detention of the applicant for 15 days.
“The detention of the applicant for the nine days has been legitimised by the order,” the notice of appeal read in part.
It also contested Idowu’s decision on the grounds that she “misdirected herself on the facts when she held that the detention of the applicant.’
“The applicant could not be said to have been detained for nine days with regard to the circumstances of this case.
“In the alternative, if there was any unlawful detention (which is not conceded), it was for only four days. That is from October 17 to 20, 2011.”
NDLEA said, “Drugs and poisons are items under the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1999 Constitution and also subject to exclusive jurisdiction of the FHC by virtue of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution.
The judge on March 2, 2012 granted a partial stay of execution of the judgment by ordering the NDLEA to pay the money to the Chief Registrar of the court who would in turn pay it into an interest-yielding account.
Baba Suwe was arrested by operatives of the NDLEA at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on October 12, 2011 and detained for 23 days without evidence that he ingested any banned substance.