Former senator from Akwa Ibom State, Anietie Okon, has been ordered by a High Court in Uyo, to pay N100,000 as damages to a newspaper vendor, Ndifreke Etim, whom he assaulted last year in Uyo.
Etim, who walks around the city of Uyo, hawking newspapers, had told the court that Okon slapped him multiple times inside Government House, Uyo, in September last year. The assault occurred around the state banquet hall where the vendor had gone with the hope of making quick sales during the swearing-in of a new chairman of Akwa Ibom State Council of Traditional Rulers.
According to reports, Etim claimed that three able-bodied men, who may have been Okon’s bodyguards, stood by to watch as the former senator kept slapping him.
“When he finished slapping me, he accused me of stealing his wallet. But God knows I am not a thief, I sell newspapers to take care of myself and my family,” Mr. Etim had told newsmen shortly after the incident. “He didn’t even search me to see if I had his wallet on me or not.”
The victim, backed by the Newspaper Distributors Association of Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State chapter, filed a civil suit against the former senator. “I didn’t really think of reporting the case to the police; I wanted it sorted out in court,” said the vendor.
The court, presided over by Justice Winifred Effiong, held that the action of the former senator was degrading, and that it was against Etim’s right to the dignity of his person as guaranteed by Section 34(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as the African Charter on human and people’s right.
The court, besides granting an order that Okon should pay N100,000 as damages to Etim, also granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the former senator or his agents from further breaching of the applicant’s fundamental human rights. It also ordered the former senator to pay additional N50,000 as cost of the litigation to Etim.
“I am glad that the court has been bold enough to tell the senator that what he did against me was wrong. It is not about the money,” he said.
When contacted, the former senator said he was yet to get a copy of the court judgment. Ndianabasi Udofia represented Etim in the case, while Esther Archibong represented Okon.