Femi Falana, SAN

Navy’s ‘illegal’ detention: Falana threatens to sue NHRC

NEWS DIGEST–ACTIVIST lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) on Thursday threatened to sue the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) if it fails to take appropriate actions against the Nigerian Navy (NN) for alleged illegal detention of 67 persons.

The popular lawyer stated this in a follow-up letter he addressed to the Executive Secretary of NHRC.

He gave the commission seven days to have the Navy release or prosecute those allegedly being detained in naval, other military facilities, or face a writ of mandamus before a Federal High Court.

Falana recalled his earlier letter, dated May 19, where he requested for the release of 40 Nigerians allegedly being detained by the Navy without trial.

Aside the 40, Falana said yesterday that 57 other persons had been held in crowded cells at the Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) Beecroft in Apapa, Lagos, and 10 others inside a vessel at the Marina Jetty, Lagos, between three and 18 months without a remand order.

The lawyer gave the names of the 57 NNS Beecroft detainees as: Michael Ovie, Simon Onyisike Mike, Umoren Daniel, James Archibong, Graham Brown, Ifeanyi Osadinizu, Matthew Epiagolo, Taiwo Ayodele, Sunday Ojo, Austin Omonisa, Timothy Ajayi, Adeleke Adewale, Onoja Reuben, Pius Paul, Peter Pulle, Ogunmoyero Oluwaseun, Innocent Sunday, Lejoro Friday, Hamza Yakubu, Segun Yusuf, Adebayo Mayoma, Godswill Umoh, Edu Fidelis, Richard David and Daniel Harrison.

Others are: Asaiki Okeoghene, Omogoye Bolaji, Victor Uchendu, Oloyede Ademola, Emomotimi Watchman, Ganabel Sixtus, Olajide Enigbewo, Kehinde Labinjo, Godswill Ebbah, Sikiru Adekoya (SK MARINE), Patrick Ogerugba, Emmanuel Oputa, Kingsley Terry, Melvin Jack, Paul Obi, Matthew Pius, Grace Inyang, Okechukwu Iwuoha, Godwin Etiaka, Lukman Salami, Owei Ukuto, Collins Joel, Victor Jeremiah, Emmanuel Eze, Miebaka Iyalla, Firstman Job, Francis Onyema, Austin Abarowei, Nelson Sokaribo, Victor Okechukwu and Olanrewaju Peter.

The lawyer also identified those allegedly being held in a vessel at Marina as: Oloyede Ademola, Omogoye Bolaji, Umoh Emmanuel, Richard Essien, Edu Fidelis, Umoren Harrison, Simeon Mike, Udom Jerome, Archibong Aniete James and Okeoghene Asaiki Jude.

According to Falana, the commission has not deemed it fit to sanction the Navy, in exercise of its powers under the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act, 2010, following its failure to respond to his petition on the alleged illegal detention of 40 Nigerians.

“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 (EFCC), 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 (DIA) 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, 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 three to 18 months without any remand order issued by a Magistrate Court or any judge in Nigeria.

“In view of the foregoing, we urge you to use your 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 is reasonable suspicion that they have committed any criminal offence whatsoever.

“TAKE NOTICE that if you fail or refuse to accede to our request within seven 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,” Falana said.

Contacted, NHRC spokesman Lambert Oparah said he was out of Abuja and should be granted a day to react to the issues.

He said: “I will need to find out the true situation of things in order to reply you accurately. Falana is a friend of the commission. We have been working together and we respect his views and opinions. There is no way the commission will not take the right action on the matter.”

Also, the Director of Naval Information, Commodore Suleiman Dahun said he had seen the report and forwarded same to appropriate naval establishments for action.

He added that the Navy’s findings would be communicated to appropriate quarters.