2nd October, 2013
By Bello Destiny Paul
Not quite long ago, the Court of Appeal in Lagos State upturned the decision of the state High Court that ordered NDLEA to pay N25 million to the Ace comedian, popularly known as Baba Suwe.
Lest we forget, Baba Suwe was detained by NDLEA based on an allegation that he had cocaine in his possession at the airport while he was about to travel out of Lagos to France.
Having been detained for weeks in the name of investigation and through excessive defecation, Baba Suwe enforced his fundamental human rights and canvassed that he was illegally arrested and unconstitutionally detained. Based on his inalienable fundamental right to liberty, he was discharged and acquitted and the court ordered NDLEA to pay him N25 million as damages. But NDLEA frowned at the judgment, and canvassed in its appeal that it is not liable in anyway to pay the N25 million because it was doing its job it was statutorily empowered to do. So, the table was turned against Baba Suwe, and the court averred that although he was entitled to his right to liberty, he should forget about the N25 million damages awarded him by the lower court.
To quote from a verdict in the case of AG Abia V AGF 2  6 NWLR [PT 764] 542: “It’s also important to bear in mind, that the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court in particular, is an essential integral arm in the governance of the nation. It is the
guardian of the constitution charged with the sacred responsibility of dispensing justice for the purposes of safeguarding and protecting the constitution and its goals.”
But now that Baba Suwe is in Supreme Court, by appealing against the court of Appeal verdict, I humbly urge the Supreme Court to nullify the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which I respectfully consider erroneous and perverse.
There is no doubt that NDLEA is statutorily empowered by law to deal with all criminals, suspected drug traffickers, arrest, detain, investigate, and prosecute them. And every right thinking and good citizen of Nigeria must support NDLEA on this. But since NDLEA is an organization established by law, I believe that all its actions and duties must be within the purview of the law because what is law can become unlawful. For instance, the able Jurist and Master of Roll, Lord Denning held in the case of Breen V Amalgamated Engineering Union as follows:
As a matter of fact, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on the right to liberty and what sub-section 6 of section 35 expressly stated is correlate with the decision of the Lagos High Court which the Court of Appeal upturned.
But as far as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is concerned, no excuses could avail the NDLEA. It’s irrefutable, obvious and undeniable that the fundamental rights of the popular actor were infringed upon and NDLEA deserves to pay for it. May I remind the Supreme Court of the case of Morris V Crown Office. In that matter, the court held as follows:
“The course of justice must not be deflected or interfered with. Those who strike at it, strike at the very foundations of our society.
To maintain law and order, the judges have and must have power at once to deal with those who offend against it.’’
I strongly support the courage and determination of Baba Suwe to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court.
Honestly, by its verdict, it is glaring that Court of Appeal placed the statute empowering NDLEA above the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And apart from section 1 of the Constitution, which express the supremacy of the constitution above all other laws in the land, our courts have declared in many cases, that the supremacy of the constitution is not negotiable. Undoubtedly, the State High Court has done the right thing by followed the dictates of the Constitution to have ordered NDLEA to pay N25 million to the famous artiste, not only because of his unjust incarceration, but even because of his name that was smeared by NDLEA during the time of his arrest and incarceration. To be candid, since Baba Suwe’s fundamental rights to liberty were infringed upon by the NDLEA, definitely NDLEA should pay damages, even more than the N25 million awarded him and a public apology should be tendered by NDLEA in accordance with section 35 sub-section 6 of the constitution.
The sage and a the legend who was also a Senior Advocate Of Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, once said: “Fundamental human rights are ordained not for the protection of ethnic minorities as such, but for the protection of the citizens
at large against executive and legislative tyranny and excesses.’’
I implore Supreme Court to order NDLEA to abide by the decision of the High Court. The verdict of the Court of Appeal must not be allowed to stay. If it stays, it will undoubtedly create room for tyranny, oppression, despotism, dictatorship, and illegal arrest and detention without trial will certainly be the order of the day by NDLEA in the name of carrying out their duties.
As a matter of fact, Baba Suwe is a household name in Nigeria. He is well known by the young and the old. His popularity transcends beyond the borders of Yoruba speaking people. He is even known among many tribes across Nigeria. So a lot of people knew about how the NDLEA humiliated him for many days. And the only atonement for this injustice is for the NDLEA to pay him monetary damages and public apology.
I believe that Supreme Court, which is the Apex Court of the land, will allow justice to prevail in this matter.
•Bello wrote from Lagos.