A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist, Femi Falana, has given the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), seven days ultimatum to compel the Nigerian Navy for the release of detainees in its custody or face legal action.
The activist issued the threat in an open letter written to the NHRC on August 15.
The letter titled ‘Re: Request for Release of 40 Nigerian Citizens from illegal custody of Nigerian Navy’ was a follow up to the earlier letter dated May 19 in respect of the above subject matter.
Falana in the latest letter to NHRC stated the following:
“Even though the authorities of the Nigerian Navy ignored your request to respond to our petition concerning the illegal detention of 40 Nigerian citizens without trial you have not deemed it fit to sanction them in exercise of your powers under the National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act, 2010.
“However, the Nigerian Navy has publicly denied the detention of any person in any of its cells. Despite such official denial some of the detainees have since been released or transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which has filed charges against them at the Federal High Court.”
According to Falana, the illegal detention of several Nigerians and foreigners by the authorities of the Nigerian Navy has exposed Nigeria to ridicule before the comity of civilised nations.
He further disclosed that the Swiss Government has filed a suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria in Zurich over the detention of a vessel and its crew members of four Ukranians by the Nigerian Navy for the past 18 months.
The letter continued:
“It may interest the Commission to know that the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have continued to detain Navy Captain Dada Labinjo in an underground cell in the detention facility of the Defence Intelligence Agency at Abuja since September 12, 2018 in contravention of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 which has prohibited the detention of any person in any underground cell in Nigeria. As if that is not enough, the authorities of the Nigerian Navy have refused to comply with the order of the Federal High Court for the release of the detained senior military officer from illegal custody.
“We have also confirmed, to our utter dismay, that 57 people are being detained in crowded cells at the NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos while 10 others are incarcerated inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos. Even though the 67 people have been accused of committing undisclosed criminal offences they have been detained by the Nigerian Navy for periods ranging from 3 months to 18 months without any remand order issued by a Magistrate Court or any Judge in Nigeria. The names of the 67 detainees are set out and attached to this letter.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge you to use your good offices to visit the aforesaid detention centres with a view to releasing the detainees or directing the authorities of the Nigerian Navy to arraign them in the appropriate courts if there is reasonable suspicion that they have committed any criminal offence whatsoever.”
Falana has threatened the Commission that that if it fails or refuses to accede to the request within 7 days of the receipt of his letter on grounds of interagency solidarity, he would not not hesitate to file a writ of mandamus against the Commission at the Federal High Court.