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Appeal Court slams N80m fine on police for attacking Shi’ite members

The Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto State has ordered the Nigerian police authorities to pay a cumulative sum of N80 million to the Shi’ites, followers of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H), for attacking them while on religious procession on August 19, 2021, in the state.

The three-member panel of justices, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Danjuma, held that the appeal succeeded and was hereby allowed.

They faulted the judgment of the trial court delivered on May 17, 2022.

The panel agreed with the submission of the appellants’ counsel, led by Chief M.D. Abubakar Esq., that the trial judge, in his judgment, rather than relying on uncontroverted facts in the appellants’ various affidavits, opted unjustifiably to form opinions, raised doubts and went on to resolve them against the appellants in an action for enforcement of fundamental rights involving lives.

It would be recalled that members of the Shiites had, on August 19, 2021, embarked on the Ashura procession to commemorate the killing of Imam Hussaini bn Ali bn Abi Talib (AS), the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).

While the procession was about to end, the officers of the Nigerian Police were alleged to have attacked the procession around the Mabera area of Sokoto town, Sokoto State.

Four mourners were said to have been killed and numerous others were injured in the incident.

The Shiites alleged that Hassan Abubakar, Imrana Umar, Bello Muhammad and Haidar Musa Bodinga were among those who were killed by the police.

After the incident, a fundamental rights suit was instituted before Justice James Omotosho at Federal High Court, Sokoto division where the Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in the state were sued as 1st and 2nd defendants.

However, Justice Omotosho delivered a judgement in favour of the police.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the appellants filed an appeal marked: CA/S/131/2022 on May 30, 2023.

The 10 appellants, who filed the appeal on behalf of the entire Shia Muslim Community in Sokoto, include Prof. Shehu Maigadi, Mal. Sidi Mannir Mainasara, Mal. Sa’adu Shehu, Abuzar Daniya, Mubarak Jega, Mustapha Shinkafi, Aliyu Abubakar Appel, Nazir Shehu, Mustapha Yusuf and Zayyanu Ladan.

In the judgement delivered on March 18, 2024, but its certified true copy made available to newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, the Appeal Court declared that the vicious attack by the police officers against the Ashura mourners in Sokoto City on August 19, 2021, that is, opening fire and shooting on Shiites sporadically, using live ammunition, resulting in the deaths of Hassan Abubakar, Imrana Umar Bello Muhammad, Haidar Musa Bodinga, and fatal wounds to Abuzar Yahaya Daniya and others, is deliberate, unwarranted, inhuman, unconscionable, and unlawful, and that the same violates Section 33 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

The court, therefore, ordered the police to pay compensation of N10 million for each of the four mourners killed and also pay N2 million to each of the five mourners whose personal dignity was violated by the fatal bullet wounds inflicted on them by the police.

The appellate court also ordered police to pay the Shi’a Muslim community in Sokoto State the sum of N30 million for the degrading and inhuman treatment of firing live ammunition at them during the Ashura procession in Sokoto on August 19, 2021.

Other members of the panel of justices include Justice Muhammed Shu’aibu and Justice Ebiowei Tobi.

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