A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday asked the federal government to publish names of the 67 Nigerians ‘illegally’ detained and held incommunicado by the Nigerian Navy and Police since last year.
In a statement on Sunday, Falana said following petitions his chambers submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last week, where it complained about the ‘illegal and prolonged’ detention of 67 Nigerians by the navy, families of the detainees were now coming out to provide more insight into the ‘dehumanising’ condition of the embattled Nigerian citizens.
He added that, “Since the detainees were arrested by armed and masked naval personnel on mufti without any warrant of arrest and incarcerated incommunicado, it was thought by many family members that the detainees had been abducted and killed by hardened kidnappers.
“The most pathetic case is that of Ms. Grace Inyang, who was arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by masked naval personnel on October 27, 2018. She was driven to Abuja and dumped in an underground cell at the detention facility of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). She was, however, transferred to the NNS Beecroft detention centre in Apapa, Lagos State, last week for further incarceration.
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“Even though the lady has spent 295 days in detention, the detaining authorities have not informed her of any criminal offence allegedly committed by her. Neither has she been allowed to communicate with her relatives.”
Falana said 56 men in the same detention facility in Apapa have been abandoned by the authorities, adding that in the same vein, no one has attended to the other 10 citizens who have been detained inside a vessel in Marina, Lagos, for the past 13 months.
Going further, he explained that by not notifying the family members and relatives of the detainees of their arrest and places of detention, the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have willfully violated section 6 (2) (b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which has imposed a duty on all detaining authorities to notify the next of kin or relatives of every suspect of arrest at no cost to the suspect.
“It is pertinent to note that the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have also continued to ignore court orders for the unconditional release of 15 out of 67 detainees, including Navy Captain Dada Labinjo, being detained at the underground cell of the DIA in Abuja.
“Since the detention of the 67 citizens for several months without trial cannot be justified under sections 35 and 36 of the Nigerian Constitution, the navy ought to have released them without any further delay. The illegality of the detention of the 67 people is compounded by the fact that the Nigerian Navy has no powers under the Armed Forces Act to detain persons who are not subject to service law. However, if there is evidence that they have committed economic crimes, they should be transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution,” Falana said.
Falana, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct all detaining authorities in Nigeria to publish names of all detainees and their places of detention, and prohibit the police and other security forces from subjecting Nigerians to any form of illegal detention.