Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
Nearly three years after being assaulted and battered by men of the Nigerian Police Force and officials of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in Abuja, a senior reporter with TheNEWS Magazine / PM News, Mr. Desmond Utomwen, has been awarded the sum of N100 million as damages against the bank by an Abuja High Court.
Mr. Utomwen, supported by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, had dragged the bank and the Nigeria Police Force before the court for battering and assaulting him while officially investigating a protest at the Area 3, Garki branch of the bank by some customers who had accused the bank of inexplicable and irregular withdrawals via ATM from their accounts domiciled at the bank on Friday, December 11, 2009
The presiding judge, Justice U. K. Kekemeke while delivering the judgment in the matter decried the assault on the journalist who was merely carrying out his legitimate duties.
Utomwen had resorted to the court following repeated demands to the Bank and Police for a thorough investigation and compensation proved abortive. The journalist briefed Mr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel from Mr. Festus Keyamo’s Chambers, who then proceeded to the Abuja High Court to seek redress.
The journalist sought for a declaration by the court that his attack and battering with guns, beating to unconsciousness, bundling into Police vehicle and detention for many hours without access to any form of medical treatment by the Police and the bank’s officials is inhuman and degrading and amounts to a violation of his rights as enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He also urged the court to hold that the forceful collection of his Digital Camera and Digital Recorder as well as his official identity card issued by TheNEWS magazine and cash of N2000 by his attackers amounts to forceful acquisition of his property and a violation of his right to own moveable property as enshrined in Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution.
The journalist was also miffed by his obstruction from receiving and publishing information about the peaceful protest of the aggrieved bank’s customers on that fateful day.
The NUJ was resolute in its support for Mr. Utomwen and decried the usually unnecessary assaults meted out to Journalists in the course of their legitimate duties.