Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, dismissed a suit brought before him by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to enforce his fundamental rights against the Department of State Services (DSS).
According to Justice Omotosho, Kanu’s suit lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2022 and filed by his lawyer, Kanu had sued the Director General of DSS, DSS, and the Attorney-General of the Federation as 1st to 3rd respondents respectively.
The IPOB leader alleged that the DSS subjected him to different inhuman treatments, including denying him his right to wear any clothes of his choice like the Igbo traditional attire called “Isi-Agu,” while in their facility or any time he appeared in court for his trial.
Kanu also alleged that the security outfit while allowing other inmates in their custody the freedom to choose and wear any clothes of their choice, restricted him to wearing only a single clothing.
The applicant also accused the DSS of subjecting him to torture, breaching his right to dignity, among others, seeking an order directing the respondents to allow him to put on any clothing of his choice while in the facility or when appearing in public, among other reliefs.
The DSS, however, in a counter affidavit filed by the DSS and its DG, urged the court to dismiss Kanu’s claim.
Acccording to the secret police, its operatives had not and had never tortured Kanu either physically or mentally while in their custody, adding that the applicant (Kanu) is kept in their facility where every other suspect is kept.
The DSS further stated that it was not true that other suspects were allowed to put on any clothing of their choice, including Hausa and Yoruba traditional wear.
It said that the facility was not a recreational centre or traditional festival where Kanu and other suspects would be allowed to adore themselves in their respective traditional attires, adding that there is a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) on dress code by persons in their facilities.
“That in line with global best practices, persons in the 1st and 2nd respondents’ facility are allowed to wear only plain clothes which do not bear symbols, writings, colours and insignias that are offensive to any religion, ethnic group or even the Nigeria state in general,” the DSS said.
The secret police also accused Kanu’s family of bringing traditional attires and other clothing with Biafra insignias and pair of red shoes decorated with shining beads for him to wear in custody and also to attend court for his trial, adding that the clothes have colours of the non-existing Biafra Republic, which is the subject matter of the applicant’s criminal trial.
The DSS also argued that the Isi-Agu attire, popularly called chieftaincy attire, was not a suitable dress for persons in detention facilities and was against its SOP, adding that it never breached his right to human dignity as alleged by the IPOB leader.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho held that the right to human dignity is contained in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that it was clear that a right to human dignity related to the right against torture, and inhuman treatment, among others.
The judge further held that Kanu’s case did not relate to torture or forced labour as he was never tortured while in custody based on the evidence before the court.
According to him, a right to dignity was not a right to change clothes as an inmate in a prison.
“The applicant cannot come to court to seek rights which are not in the constitution,” he said.
Justice Omotosho also held that Kanu failed to provide the photographs and names of inmates who were allowed to wear different attires while in custody, insisting that the onus was on him to prove his case but the applicant merely rely on bare facts without any evidence.
He described the IPOB leader’s allegations as “a hypothesis without concrete evidence.”
The judge, consequently, dismissed the case for lacking merit.
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