Martins Ifijeh and Esther Oluku
A human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has advocated for monthly inspection of detention facilities of federal government agencies by judges of the Federal High Court.
In a statement made available to THISDAY Wednesday, he said this was in order to end illegal detention of criminal suspects and political detainees in the country, as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 has made provisions for it.
He said the ACJ, 2015 made copious provisions for pretrial detention, detention time limits and monthly inspection of all police stations by chief magistrates designated by the chief judge of each state of the federation.
The Lagos lawyer said: “It is further provided by section 34 (4) of the ACJ Act, 2015 that judges of the high court, having jurisdiction, shall visit all detention facilities of other federal government agencies authorized to make arrests. During such visit, the judge or the chief magistrate shall have the power to grant bail or order the release of a suspect or order the arraignment in the appropriate court.
“Pursuant to section 34 of the ACJ Act, the Chief Justice of Nigeria directed all chief judges in the country to designate judges and chief magistrates to conduct a monthly inspection of all police stations and other detention facilities. In line with the directive, the chief judges of the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 states have designated chief magistrates to visit police stations on a monthly basis. But for some undisclosed reasons, your Lordship has not deemed it fit to comply with the directive.”
He said however, on the basis of the increasing wave of indiscriminate arrest and prolonged detention of many citizens and foreigners living in Nigeria, his law firm was compelled to request the designation of judges of the Federal High Court to conduct monthly inspection of all the detention facilities, adding that in spite of repeated assurances to do the needful, “Your Lordship has not acceded to our request.”
He alleged that some agencies of government have continued to detain thousands of persons without trial in various detention facilities in the country.
He said in particular, scores of people were being detained by the Nigerian armed forces in detention facilities, including underground cells, noting that some of the detainees have been held incommunicado in dehumanising detention conditions for over three years without trial.
“Recently, the Federal High Court ordered the State Security Service to release a journalist, Mr. Jones Abiri from unlawful custody. The said Mr. Abiri was abducted in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State sometime in 2016, blindfolded and taken to Abuja where he was dumped in a dungeon and detained for over two years without trial. As his incarceration could not be justified in law the Federal High Court ordered his immediate release and awarded him reparation of N10 million. Although Mr. Abiri has regained his freedom the damages have not been paid. We have since requested the new management of the SSS to release about 294 other detainees who have been detained for about three years without trial. Based on our complaint a number of the detainees have since been released from illegal custody.”
“But the authorities of the Nigerian navy have ignored our demand for the release of about 150 persons held in naval detention facilities in Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt. In fact, the orders of courts directing the navy to release of some of the detainees have been treated with contempt. As if that was not enough, the Nigerian Navy announced that the detainees would not be released from illegal custody. Based on the reckless statement credited to the naval authorities the government of Switzerland has dragged the federal government of Nigeria to court in Zurich over the 18-month detention of a ship and four of its crew members in a detention facility in Lagos,” he added.