THE Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River state has berated naval ratings across the country for alleged incessant harassment and intimidation of innocent citizens thereby abusing the human rights of the citizens.
The court in a landmark judgement delivered by Justice Ademola Adetokunbo wondered why naval ratings whose salaries, allowances and other welfare packages were paid through the citizens taxes were becoming confrontational and unfriendly to the harmless taxpayers.
He noted that human rights abuses by naval operatives was becoming common in the country and declared that if the ugly trend was not checked, it would result to serious consequences.
“Nigerians are gradually becoming endangered species in their own country. Naval ratings should be taught that we are living in the 21st century Nigeria and not in the era of animal farm”, the judge stressed
He therefore awarded a fine of N150m damages against the Nigerian Navy to one Hon. Joe Etene (applicant) who was bestially harassed by naval ratings in Calabar recently.
The affidavit supporting the motion filed by the applicant showed that he was attacked on January 29 by some naval ratings opposite the Navy Barracks, Atimbo in Calabar, where he had gone to deliver a wedding gift to his niece
Trouble was said to have started when a naval rating identified simply as Isa ordered him to change the position of his car.
Etene had willingly complied with the order but politely demanded to know whether the navy would allow the wedding guests to park their cars on that road on the day of the ceremony.
But, instead of responding to the question, Isa was said to have taken offence and then began to manhandle Etene hitting him on the head with gun butt.
Etene told the court that he suffered dehumanisation, loss of blood, pains, trauma and humiliation and that his right to the dignity of human person was flagrantly breached by the ratings.
“As a former legislator and lawyer, the humiliation was horrible and it took the bravery of people around the scene to rescue me from the wild attacks that were visited upon me. I also suffered terrible bruises to the body and to my head and I had to stay at home for days to enable the pain subside and I was placed on various pain killers”.
Thus, he sought the court’s declaration that he was entitled to his right to dignity of human person and personal liberty as enshrined in Section 34 and 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and could not be treated like an animal by the respondent.
He also asked the court to declare that the act of beating him to coma by the respondent was unconstitutional, illegal, and unlawful and a breach of his fundamental rights.
While joining the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, Calabar and the Commanding Officer, NNS Victory Calabar, the applicant asked the court to award him damages of N300m.
Adetokunbo granted all the reliefs, but slashed the damages to N150m just as he asked the respondent to pay litigation cost of N50,000 to the applicant.