Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of a Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned further proceedings till January 16, 2016 in a suit filed by human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), against the Attorney General of the Federation.
Falana is seeking compensation in the sum of N500m from the AGF for the alleged violation of his right by military men during the fuel subsidy protest of January 2012.
He is urging the court to declare that the military, being agents of the Federal Government, violated his fundamental rights when they prevented him from joining others at the Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Park in Ojota, Lagos on January 16, 2012 to protest the removal of fuel subsidy.
He claimed to have been affected, as a motorist who bought fuel from time to time, when the Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan increased the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit from N65 to N141 per litre in 2012.
“By restricting my movement, the respondents’ agents did not allow me to express my opinion based on new facts at the rally on Monday, January 16, 2012.
“The applicant was prevented from enjoying his freedom of movement when he was unlawfully ordered to return to his residence by armed agents of the respondents.”
Falana, who recalled that he took part in several demonstrations against the policy of the military regimes between January 1984 and May 1999, said the soldiers who stopped him on January 16, 2012 from protesting against the removal of fuel subsidy caused him mental and psychological trauma.
“As a result of the action of the respondents I suffered mental and psychological trauma having played a leading role in the struggle for the restoration of democratic rule in May 1999.
“I was also pained because I had taken part in the protest rallies held in Lagos and Abuja in January 2010 which culminated in the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the acting President of Nigeria,” he said.
Falana is urging the court to declare that he is entitled to be compensated for damages in the sum of N500m for the violation of his fundamental rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly guaranteed by sections 36, 40 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.
The only respondent in the case is the AGF after the applicant had discontinued action against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Minister of Defence, which were originally joined as the 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.
The office of the AGF has however asked the court to either dismiss Falana’s suit in its entirety or strike out the name of the AGF as a respondent in the suit, for “not being a necessary or even a desirable party in the suit.”
It said it did not play any role in the alleged violation of Falana’s rights and maintained that the human rights lawyer failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action against the AGF.
One Keshinro Adedamola, who deposed to an affidavit in support of the AGF’s preliminary objection, said, “The AGF does not have the power under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to either effect an increase in the pump price of PMS or direct armed soldiers to prevent any citizen from moving about.”