Legal Nigeria

Court awards N100m against police over woman’s death in custody

Police must cough out N100million damages to the family of a victim who died in custody, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, held on Monday.
The late Mrs. Patricia Onyeabo died in detention last May 16 after being accused of involvement in Nigerian Railway Corporation N1billion pension scam.
Onyeabo, a former NRC Secretary/Legal Adviser died about four weeks after the police detained her over the alleged fraud in which she was implicated.
Her daughter, Amaka, filed a fundamental rights enforcement action and sought damages for her mother’s death.
The judge held that the police denied the deceased access to medical treatment while in custody.
He said had the late Onyeabo been allowed access to her doctor and medications, she probably would not have died.
“I hold that the Nigeria Police had failed in its responsibility. The applicant had a right to life and dignity of human person but was denied them while in the custody of the police, thereby leading to her life being terminated.
“If she was allowed access to the hospital, she would not have died. The police denied her the opportunity to visit the hospital for the treatment of her ailment,” Justice Idris held.
The deceased and others were being investigated over the alleged mismanagement of the NRC workers’ contributory pension scheme.
They were said to have been initially detained at the Nigerian Railway Police Command in Ebute-Meta, Lagos, before being transferred to the Federal Criminal Investigation Department in Abuja.
Onyeabo reportedly died about five days after she was transferred to Abuja.
Her daughter, through Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), claimed N1billion for general and aggravated damages over the “unlawful detention, harassment and intimidation of her deceased mother.”
Idigbe claimed that the police violated the deceased’s fundamental rights to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, freedom of movement and fair hearing as guaranteed by sections 33, 34, 35, 36 and 46 of the 1999 Constitution.