Barristers & Solicitors
Lagos guard detained for 12 years awarded N500,000

The Lagos State Court of Appeal has ordered the office of the Attorney General of the state to pay N500,000 to a security guard, Sule Sanni, who was arrested in 1999 and unlawfully detained for 12 years without arraignment or prosecution.

This was contained in a judgment jointly delivered by Justices Onyekachi Otisi, Obande Ogbuinya, and Peter Affen, on Monday November 21, 2022.

PUNCH Metro gathered that in December 1998, suspected thieves broke into a provision store owned by Sanni who was also a security guard in the area.

The Adamawa State indigene was said to have engaged the robbers and in the process apprehended one of them as others fled.

Our correspondent gathered that Sanni was taken to the Tin Can Police Station where he was informed that the suspected thief that he apprehended, sustained injuries and had died.

He was subsequently arrested and transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department from where he was charged to the Yaba Magistrate Court and remanded at the Ikoyi Prison from January 8, 1999, till 2011 when he filed a fundamental rights suit before the high court justice O.A Akinlade.

The trial judge held that Sanni’s remand by a magistrate who had no jurisdiction to try the offence of murder was a flagrant violation of his fundamental human rights.

It also held that the record of proceedings and charge sheet could not be traced except a copy of remand warrant at Ikoyi Prison, adding that there was nothing to justify his continued incarceration without being arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.

Akinlade, who released Sanni unconditionally from prison custody, ordered the Attorney General of Lagos State and state Commissioner of Police to pay him the sum of N1m as damages for the unlawful detention for 12 years.

However, in March 2, 2012, the office of the Attorney General of Lagos, after paying the N1m sum appealed the lower court judgment on the ground that the office was not involved in the arrest, remand, and detention of Sanni who was arrested and detained by the police.

The appellant (Attorney General) argued that the AG and the police were not the same. It prayed the court to allow the appeal or if the appeal was dismissed, the court should order the appellant to pay one-half of the N1m sum instead of the full amount.

Giving the lead judgment, Justice Onyekachi Otisi said the appeal partly succeeded, adding that Sanni’s remand and lack of prosecution was a violation of his human rights.

He said, “The appellant (office of the Attorney General) cannot be absolved from the liability for the unlawful and illegal remand of the 1st respondent (Sanni) in prison custody, without trial, for more than 12 years.

“The appellant argued that he should be made to bear responsibility for only half of the awarded sum of N1m. The 1st respondent did not respond to this argument. I deem it fair to endorse the appellant’s contention that he should be liable for one-half of the damages awarded in favor of the 1st respondent.”

Otisi added that the court could not speculate whether Sanni was still traceable by his counsel, Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, as the court was not notified.

Justices Obande Ogbuinya, and Peter Affen aligned with the lead judgment.

Reacting to the judgment, human rights’ lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said “The Nigerian law is class-based. Hence, the Court of Appeal awarded N1m as reparation to a man who was detained illegally for 12 years due to the highly erroneous belief that the personal liberty of a poor citizen is worthless.”

Falana advised Sanni’s counsel to seek redress at the Supreme Court.