A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday restrained the State Security Service (SSS) and the police from disturbing, arresting or intimidating men of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) from operating as a lawful registered civil security outfit.
The high court judge, Justice Evon Chukwu, awarded N10 million damages against the SSS and the police for violating the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps men to free association. The two security agencies are to pay the Peace Corps men N5 million each.
The Peace Corps had in the suit filed on its behalf by Mr. AbdulRasaq Ayedum complained that its offices across the states of the federation have been closed down while its officials were stripped naked in the public by the SSS.
The Corps demanded N250 million damages from the SSS and the police for the hardship and embarrassment suffered. But the SSS and the police said the Peace Corps was exploiting youths by training them for illegal activities capable of undermining the nation’s security. Delivering judgement, Justice Chukwu barred the two bodies from interfering with the lawful activities and programmes of the Peace Corps.
The judge also stopped further arrest, detention, intimidation and harassment of Peace Corps men by the SSS and the police. Justice Chukwu held that it was barbaric and uncivilized for the operatives of the SSS and police to resort to stripping the Peace Corps officials naked in the public for no cause.
A secret security report by the SSS sent to some governors indicting the Peace Corps as an unregistered and a security threatening body was nullified and set aside by the court for being unlawful, illegal, unwarranted and in bad taste Justice Chukwu held that the report damaging the registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) was in bad taste due to the failure of the SSS to justify the reason behind its issuance.
The judge also lashed out at the SSS officials for their poor defence of the case. He said that in a democratic setting where the rule of law prevails, such habit of gross abuse of power and deliberate infringement on the rights of the citizenry must not be allowed to exist.
The judge disagreed with the claim by the SSS that the Peace Corps was exploiting Nigerian youths for illegal activities capable of undermining the security of the nation. Justice Chukwu said that there was no proof of such allegation by SSS throughout the trial of the case. He, therefore, restrained the SSS from further engaging in unprovoked attack against a non-violent body.
The National Commandant of the Peace Corps, Ambassador Dickson Akoh, praised the judge for upholding the rule of law. He regretted that SSS had crippled the activities of the body in spite of several court judegment and appealed to the Federal Government to compel SSS and the police to always respect court orders. Akoh claimed that the SSS had on several occasions attempted to get the certificate of the registration of the body revoked, but failed.