A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday imposed a fine of N18million on the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force over the unlawful acts of its personnel against three Nigerian citizens.
The police were fined the huge sum by Justice Gabriel Kolawole for illegally selling off three fuel tanker trailers belonging to Dauda Jibril, Vwede Akpohonor and William Onos.
The three transporters had through their counsel, Mr. Kamin Asunogie, instituted a legal action against the Inspector General of Police to challenge the unlawful secrete sales of their tanker trailers in 2007 during pendency of a suit at the Federal High Court.
They claimed N11.4m as the cost of the vehicles as at the time they were sold off and another N6m as special damages caused them by the action of police and which were granted.
Giving judgment in the legal action on Wednesday, Justice Kolawole held that the police were reckless, fraudulent and dishonest with the shoddy and shameful manners the vehicles of the plaintiffs were secretly disposed off despite a pending court action before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court.
Justice Kolawole dismissed the claim by the police that the trailers were abandoned by alleged pipeline vandals while siphoning petroleum products in Delta.
He held that the three plaintiffs were put on trial in 2007 by police on allegation of being pipeline vandals but the criminal charges were struck out by a magistrate court on account of lack of diligent prosecution.
The Judge held that with the verdict of the magistrate court that was not challenged in higher court, the police ought to have released the vehicles to their respective owners having failed to establish a criminal case against them.
Justice Kolawole also held that police acted in bad faith when Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, Abuja ordered that the vehicles be released on bonds to their owners but defied the order and resisted to release.
He said that a purported order allegedly obtained from Chief Magistrate Kabir Lamido in Abuja authorizing the sale was a nullity because the court had been ceased of power to do so having struck out the criminal charge against the plaintiffs and discharged them.