Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has issued 7-day ultimatum to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to secure the release of 40 Nigerians from illegal custody of the Nigerian Navy or face legal action.
Falana, in a letter to the Executive Secretary, NHRC on Thursday, referred to an earlier letter written to the commission dated May 19, 2019 in respect of the same matter, saying that even though the authorities of the Nigerian Navy ignored the commission’s request to respond to his petition concerning the illegal detention of 40 Nigerian citizens without trial, the body had not deemed it fit to sanction them in exercise of its powers under the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act, 2010.
“However, the Nigerian Navy has publicly denied the detention of any person in any of its cells. Despite such official denial some of the detainees have since been released or transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which has filed charges against them at the Federal High Court.
“Meanwhile, the illegal detention of several Nigerians and foreigners by the authorities of the Nigerian Navy has exposed Nigeria to ridicule before the comity of civilised nations. As you are no doubt aware, the Swiss Government has filed a suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria in Zurich over the detention of a vessel and its crew members of four Ukranians by the Nigerian Navy for the past 18 months.
“It may interest the Commission to know that the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have continued to detain Navy Captain Dada Labinjo in an underground cell in the detention facility of the Defence Intelligence Agency at Abuja since September 12, 2018 in contravention of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 which has prohibited the detention of any person in any underground cell in Nigeria. As if that is not enough, the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have refused to comply with the order of the Federal High Court for the release of the detained senior military officer from illegal custody.
“We have also confirmed, to our utter dismay, that 57 people are being detained in crowded cells at the NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos while 10 others are incarcerated inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos. Even though the 67 people have been accused of committing undisclosed criminal offences they have been detained by the Nigerian Navy for periods ranging from 3 months to 18 months without any remand order issued by a Magistrate Court or any Judge in Nigeria. The names of the 67 detainees are set out and attached to this letter,” he stated.
Falana said in view of the foregoing, he urged the commission to use its good offices to visit the aforesaid detention centres with a view to releasing the detainees or directing the authorities of the Nigerian Navy to arraign them in the appropriate courts if there was reasonable suspicion that they had committed any criminal offence whatsoever.
“Take notice that if you fail or refuse to accede to our request within 7 days of the receipt of this letter on grounds of interagency solidarity, we shall not hesitate to file a writ of mandamus against the Commission at the Federal High Court.”
The names of the 57 people being detained by the Nigerian Navy at the NNS Beecroft cell in Apapa Lagos, according to Falana, are as follows:
Simon Onyisike Mike
Emomotimi F. Watchman
Godswill Akpoviri Ebbah
Sikiru Adekoya (SK Marine)
List of 10 people detained inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos:
Oloyede Yisa Ademola
Omogoye Wasiu Bolaji,
Umoh Goodswill Emmanuel
Richard David Essien
Umoren Daniel Harrison
Simeon Onysi Mike
Udom Victor Jerome
Archibong Anietie James
Okeoghene Asaiki Jude