Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has decried the illegal detention of 15 civilians and military officers for seven months by the Nigerian Navy without trial.

According to Falana, in a statement on Sunday, sometime in September 2018, the Nigerian Navy arrested 15 Nigerian citizens, including Group Captain Dada Labinjo, Lt. Commander Sherifat Ibe Lambert (also known as Mrs Bola Labinjo) and Benjamin Gold for an undisclosed offence.

He said the detainees were immediately dumped in a military detention facility at Apapa in Lagos and that in order to legalise the arrest and detention of the detainees, the Naval Authorities obtained a remand warrant from a Magistrate Court sitting in Apapa.

“But as the detainees who were incarcerated for over 3 months were not charged with any criminal offence the Magistrate Court reviewed their case on January 7, 2019 and ordered the Naval Authorities to release them from illegal custody forthwith.

“But in utter contempt of the valid order of the Magistrate Court the Authorities of the Nigerian Navy transferred the detainees to another military detention facility in Abuja. Following the application by Lt. Commander Bola Labinjo filed for the enforcement of her fundamental right to personal liberty the Federal High Court directed the Naval Authorities to release her from illegal custody. But the valid order of the Federal High Court has equally been ignored by the Naval Authorities without any legal justification. Even though the civilians among the detainees are not subject to service law the Naval Authorities have continued to detain them in military detention facilities.

“As if that is not enough, the detainees have been denied access to their family members, medical doctors and lawyers. Furthermore, the fundamental right of the detainees to dignity has been violated as they are being held incommunicado in solitary confinement while they are subjected to physical, mental and psychological torture in total contravention of section 3(2) of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 which provides that “secret detention places, solitary confinement, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention where torture is carried out are prohibited,” Falana explained.

He added that as the prolonged incarceration of the detainees could not be justified under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended or the Armed Forces Act, they should be released from custody or arraigned before a competent court of law if there was reasonable suspicion that they had committed any criminal offence whatsoever.

“However, to curb the growing culture of official impunity in the country we are compelled to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to charge the naval personnel responsible for the violations of the fundamental rights of the detainees with contempt of court and acts of torture under the Criminal Code Act and the Anti Torture Act,” he said.

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