A human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has called on the federal government to release 10 Nigerians allegedly detained illegally in Lagos on the orders of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, since October 27, 2018.
In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, the senior lawyer said at the time of their arrest, the detainees were crew members aboard a vessel known as “NESO II,” which was hijacked by a gang of pirates.
Falana listed the names of the detainees to include: Oloyede Ademola Yisau, Omogoye Wasiu Bolaji, Edu Fidelis, Richard David, Mike Simeon, Umoren Daniel, Okoghene Asaiki, Udom Victor, James Archibong, and Umon Godswill Emmanuel.
Falana said: “While the detainees were rescued at the time, 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 the Nigerian Constitution.
“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. Their fundamental rights 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,” he explained.
The senior lawyer argued that since the detainees have not been charged with any criminal offence before any competent court, he was therefore compelled to request that the Chief of Naval Staff release them from unlawful custody without any further delay.
He added that the Chief of Naval Staff be prosecuted for subjecting the detainees to physical and mental torture, contrary to the provisions of the Anti -Torture Act, 2017.
He said: “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 Ibas.
He also emphasised that since the country was under a democratic dispensation, the federal government should sanction members of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies who engage in the incessant arrest and detention of innocent citizens without legal basis.