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Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Femi Falana, has called for the release of 10 civilians detained without trials by the Nigerian Navy.

He made the call in a letter addressed to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami.

Falana said the detainees were intercepted by naval personnel aboard a vessel hijacked by a gang of pirates in October 2018.

He added that while the detainees were rescued and the pirates arrested, the crew members who were not indicted in the investigation conducted by the navy into the hijacking of the vessel have since been detained aboard the ship.

The lawyer stressed that the action of the security operatives was a breach of the detainees’ fundamental rights to personal liberty and fair hearing as provided for in the Constitution.

He also decried that apart from detaining the crew members in “a dehumanising military facility,” they have been compelled to wear the same dress for seven months.

According to the senior advocate, since the detainees are civilians who are not subject to service law, the navy ought to have reported them to the police if there was reasonable suspicion that they committed any criminal offence whatsoever.

He, therefore, urged the AGF to direct the naval authorities to release the detainees from custody without any further delay.

Read Falana’s letter below:

May 10, 2019

The Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice,

Federal Ministry of Justice,

Maitama District,

Abuja, FCT.

Request for the release of 10 civilians detained by the Nigerian Navy since October 27, 2018

We have confirmed the illegal detention of another group of 10 Nigerian citizens aboard a ship in Marina, Lagos since October 27, 2018, on the orders of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas. The names of the detainees are:

Oloyede Ademola Yisau;

Omogoye Wasiu Bolaji;

Edu Fidelis;

Richard David;

Mike Simeon;

Umoren Daniel;

Okoghene Asaiki.

Udom Victor;

James Archibong;

Umon Godswill Emmanuel;

At the time of the arrest of the detainees seven months ago, they were crew members aboard a vessel known as “NESO II” which was hijacked by a gang of pirates. However, the detainees were rescued while the pirates were arrested by the Beecroft Naval Base. Curiously, the crew members who were not indicted in the investigation conducted by the Nigerian Navy into the hijacking of the vessel have since been detained aboard the ship in Marina, Lagos in breach of their fundamental rights to personal liberty and fair hearing guaranteed by Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).

Apart from detaining the crew members in a dehumanising military facility the Nigerian Navy has compelled each of them to wear the same dress for seven months. Thus, the fundamental rights of the detainees to dignity and freedom of movement have also been violated. Since the detainees are civilians who are not subject to service law the Nigerian Navy ought to have reported them to the Nigeria Police Force if there was reasonable suspicion that they committed any criminal offence whatsoever.

However, in view of the fact that the detainees have not been charged with any criminal offence before any competent court we are compelled to request you to direct the Chief of Naval Staff to release them from unlawful custody without any further delay. We also request you to use your good offices to prosecute the Chief of Naval Staff for subjecting the detainees to physical and mental torture contrary to the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act, 2017.

Take notice that if you fail to accede to our request within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter we shall not hesitate to file an application at the Federal High Court to secure the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the detainees to personal liberty, dignity, fair hearing and movement and seek an order of mandamus to compel you to prosecute of the Chief of Naval Staff.

Finally, since the country is under a democratic dispensation we urge the Federal Government to sanction members of the Nigeria Police Force, Armed Forces and other security agencies who engage in the incessant arrest and detention of innocent citizens without any legal basis.

Yours sincerely,
FEMI FALANA, SAN, FCI Arb.

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