The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on Wednesday, asked an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, to stay execution of its judgment which ordered the agency to pay N25 million to the Nollywood star, Babatunde Omidina.
This is pending the determination of the appeal filed by the agency on Dec. 6, 2011 at the Appeal Court in Lagos, against the said judgment.
Justice Yetunde Idowu had on Nov. 24, 2011 ordered the NDLEA to pay Omidina, (a.k.a Baba Suwe), the said sum as damages.
The amount was to compensate Omidina for his arrest and detention by the NDLEA “for nine days without a valid court order”.
She had also ordered the agency to apologise to Omidina, and publish this in two national newspapers.
The judge held that the detention of the actor by the NDLEA, after he was arrested for alleged drug trafficking, violated his fundamental human rights.
However, on Wednesday, the NDLEA, through its lawyer, Mr Femi Oloruntoba, said that the agency was relying on two grounds of appeal.
He said that the trial judge erred in law when she ruled that “the NDLEA was not justified in detaining Omidina from the day of his arrest between Oct. 12, 2011 and Oct. 21, 2011, when the Federal High Court order was obtained”.
He argued that she further erred in law and misdirected herself on the facts when she held that “the acts of the NDLEA in keeping Omidina for nine days are a flagrant abuse and infringement of his fundamental rights.
“One of the grounds of appeal raises issues of jurisdiction of this court to adjudicate in the matter and award the said damages against the NDLEA”.
Oloruntoba said that the judgment of the appellate court would be rendered nugatory, should the NDLEA succeed in its appeal, if an order of stay is not granted by the lower court.
He said that the apology, as ordered by the court, could not be published because it would prejudice its case at the appellate court.
“The respondent is an actor, whose resources are not adequate to ensure a refund of the judgment sum, should the NDLEA’s succeed on its appeal.
“If the judgment of this court is executed, it will be very difficult to secure the refund of the N25 million damages,” he said.
Oloruntoba further claimed that the NDLEA was impecunious and that paying the actor N25 million would deprive the agency of funds to perform other vital statutory functions.
Opposing the application, Omidina’s lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, urged the court to refuse it.
He stressed that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the matter and award the damages.
“In the unlikely event that the court is inclined to grant the NDLEA’s application, it is our prayer that the court orders the agency to deposit the judgment sum with the Chief Registrar of this court, who in turn shall deposit same in an interest yielding account.
“A statutory body funded to the tune of N7 billion, cannot claim that it cannot make the deposit,” Aturu said.
Justice Idowu adjourned the matter to March 2, for ruling.