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Appeal court hears case against award of N100m damages to journalist


The appellate court adjourned the hearing to November 5.


The Appeal Court in Abuja on Tuesday began hearing an appeal by the police and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) against the award of N100 million damages to a journalist they were convicted of brutalising.


The journalist, Desmond Utomwen, was manhandled by police officers at an Abuja branch of the GTB over seven years ago.


He dragged his assailants to court and was awarded damages, but the defendants appealed the judgment.


The appellate court on Tuesday, however, noted that the appellants’ brief of arguments were not served on the police, the inspector-general of police and other police officers joined in the suit.


For this, the three-member panel of the court led by Justice Stephen Adah adjourned the hearing to November 5, saying the respondents should be served before the adjourned date.



Mr Utomwen, a former staff of The NEWS magazine, in December 2009, had gone to cover a protest by some Nigerians over allegations that officials of the GTBank were involved in fraudulent withdrawals of large amounts via the bank’s Automated Teller Machines (ATM).


But police officers attached to the bank, situated at Area 3, Garki, Abuja, and bank officials descended on the reporter and beat him thoroughly.


The officers then seized the unconscious reporter, his identity card, N2,000, camera, and digital recorder and detained him at the Garki Police Station for several hours while denying him access to medical treatment.


The reporter sought redress in court after the bank and the police rebuffed several appeals by Mr Utomwen and his employers for the matter to be investigated, PREMIUM TIMES reported at the time.


In a hearing presided over by Justice Peter Kekemeke, Mr Utomwen was in October, 2012, awarded the sum of N100 million as damages by a Federal High Court in Apo, Abuja, for assault and violation of fundamental human rights against the plaintiff.


However, the defendants, which included GTBank, the police and six others, appealed the judgement, but the case was not heard until Tuesday.


The hearing was nonetheless adjourned to November 5.


Mr Utomwen’s attorney, Ugochukwu Ezekiel, after the adjournment said he would continue to defend journalists assaulted in the line of duty pro bono.


The assault on the journalist had been condemned by the Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ).


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