47 years after conviction, septuagenarian asks FHC to reverse Supreme Court verdict

•Seeks N2bn as general and exemplary damages, public apology

A legal precedence is being set in Benin, Edo State capital, as seventy-nine-year-old Mr Innocent Omorogiukpon, asked a Federal High Court (FHC), sitting in Benin, to reverse his 47-year old conviction by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The septuagenarian, Omorogiukpon, was first convicted on April 2, 1974, by a Lagos High Court in a judgment that was finally upheld by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 12, 1975.

A former staff of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lagos was in 1974, sentenced to a six-year jail term for receiving unlawful gratification, otherwise known as ‘bribe’. 

He was aged 32 then.

He, however, contested his conviction in the appellate courts until the Supreme Court, in June 12, 1975, upheld the judgment of the lower court and sentenced the now septuagenarian to a jail term of six years, which ran concurrently.

In the fresh suit number FHC/B/CS/30/2020 filed by the septuagenarian’s counsel, Edore Esiri Charles, the plaintiff averred that the Supreme Court was partial in its judgment as he was not given a fair hearing.

He opined that based on the partial judgment, his constitutional and fundamental human rights were grossly violated as his six years jail term was illegal.

The plaintiff also contended that as a result of the alleged illegal imprisonment, he had suffered permanent and continuing humiliation by being tagged an ex-convict, lost his job in the Federal Civil Service in 1974 till date having been employed in 1971 as an administrative officer and had not been able to take up various appointments, politically, socially and others.

According to him, the decision to drag the apex court to the Federal High Court, Benin City was as a result of the failure of the registrar of the court to grant him a certified true copy of the judgment.

According to his affidavit, “I was employed in 1970 by the cabinet office Lagos and was posted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs as an administrative officer grade 5, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“The following year being 1971, I was included among the list of those to write the administrative exam for the year 1971 for all federal administrative officers that have not written it or have written and failed.

“This did not go down well with my senior officers and some of my counterparts, because the exam is seen as a very tough exam and will enhance rapid promotion for those that passed.

“In 1974, I was convicted by the Lagos High Court on a corrupt charge of receiving unlawful gratification which was a complete set-up by government officer (machinery) to rope me in, and the court ruled without any proper consideration or considered ruling sentenced me to six years imprisonment, a judgment based on probability and I was sent to Kirikiri maximum prison by the Chief Superintendent of the prison.

“Since there was no Court of Appeal as at that time, I now appealed to the Supreme Court having been dissatisfied with the decision of the High Court in the exercise of my rights under the constitution.

“A date for the hearing was set aside, I was reproduced on the said date, the case was called, my lawyer announced his appearance and what was heard next was “Appeal dismissed, we rise”.

“I wrote to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Lagos, on the 25th day of August, requesting for a copy of the Supreme Court judgment in the criminal appeal, I was told that there is no written judgment in the case.”

In the fresh suit, Omoroguikpon asked the court to determine whether the delivery of judgment without a record book or a written judgment is constitutional and not actionable, and also whether a judgment delivered on a probability or a vague judgment lawful is not a violation of the constitution.

He, however, sought the relief of the lower court for the enforcement of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

He also prayed for a declaration of the payment of his salary up to when he would have been due for retirement, payment of his retirement benefits as necessary (pension and gratuity).

Other demands are an award of the sum of N2 billion as general and or exemplary damages for compensation for the unlawful imprisonment for six years, a public apology to be published in a national daily and for such order or orders as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

The case which is at Federal High Court 2, Benin City is slated for hearing today, Monday, May 31, 2021.

 

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