The Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, will on Thursday hear the application to re-list a suit filed by the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over an alleged assault and rights infringement on a journalist, Otunba Yomi Olomofe.
The Lagos NUJ had filed the suit on behalf of the Badagry-based journalist, seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights to life and freedom of expression, while joining the Comptroller-General of Customs and some officers, such as Muhammed Ndalati, Emmanuel Nkemdirim, and Ibrahim Turaki as respondents.
The applicant is claiming N500 million as damages against the NCS for assault meted out on Olomofe, who is a member of the NUJ, at the Customs premises in Seme Border, Badagry, on June 25, 2015.
The Lagos NUJ is also asking the court to declare that by beating and causing internal injuries on Olomofe, the respondents had infringed on the journalist’s right to life as guaranteed by Section 33 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The union further seeks the court declaration that the assault on Olomofe in the course of discharging his professional duties and obligations constituted an infringement on his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The suit was filed following alleged severe assault and beating the journalist allegedly received in the hands of the officers and some hoodlums allegedly hired by them. The suit which was filed early January, had been fixed for mention on February 22 and March 17, but was eventually slated for hearing on June 16.
However, when the case was called on June 16, Justice Abdulazeez Anka struck out the suit because counsel to respondents had informed the court that the applicant was absent, arguing that the case be dismissed.
But in a swift reaction, counsel to the applicant, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, re-filed the suit on June 17 and served the court processes including his application to re-list the suit on the respondents. The court then fixed July 4 for mention.
Applicant’s counsel (Ogunye) informed the court that he had duly served the court’s processes on all respondents, adding that he was ready to proceed with his application.
Counsel to the first, second, third, fourth and fifth respondents, Mr. G.U. Badejogbin and counsel to the sixth, seven and eight respondents, Mr. I.C. Ifediora, confirmed service of the court processes.
While Badejogbin said he was prepared to go on with the hearing in spite of being served with the processes late, Ifediora insisted that the suit was not ripe for hearing.
According to Ifediora, the applicant’s suit was filed on June 17, a day after it was struck out, and the applicant had to wait till June 29 before effecting service of the processes on him.
He, therefore, submitted that the case was not yet ripe for hearing adding that he would ask for cost. But the court in its ruling adjourned the case to September 29 for hearing of the motion to re-list the suit but refused to make any order as to cost.