BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, slated June 21 to hear N50 billion suit filed against the Federal Government by three Lebanese, Mustapha Roda Darwish Fawaz, Talal Roda, and Abdulla Tahini, following their arrest and detention over alleged complicity in the illegal importation of weapons into Nigeria.
In a fundamental human right enforcement motion they filed before the court, the applicants prayed the court to declare their arrest and continued detention without trial by the Department of State Services, DSS, as “illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
Fawaz, who is the owner of Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Resort, in Abuja, had through their counsel, Chief Robert Clark (SAN), faulted the closure of the business premises by security agents, even as he urged the court to award him N50 billion as compensation, as well as order the Federal Government to offer to him a public apology, to be published in three national dailies.
Specifically, they are seeking “an interim order granting bail to the applicants forthwith conditionally or unconditionally, pending the determination of the substantive Motion on Notice in this matter.
“An Interim Order restraining the respondents from continued arrest, detention, harassment and intimidation of the applicants, their families, relations and/or business interests pending the determination of the substantive Motion on Notice in this matter.
“In the alternative, an Interim Order directing the respondents particularly the 1st and 2nd respondents to produce the applicants in court for the hearing of the Motion on Notice in this matter pending the hearing and determination of the said Motion on Notice.”
Sequel to the order of the court on June 10, the Federal Government, yesterday, produced the accused persons before Justice Mohammed.
Meantime, Justice Adeniyi, yesterday, gave them five days to file a reply to a counter affidavit filed against them by the Federal Government, wherein it insisted that they have links with terrorist organizations.
Government had alleged that the detained Lebanese were members of Hezbollah military wing, an international terrorist organisation.
In addition, the DSS, in the affidavit, maintained that “Mustapha FAWAZ (2nd respondent) was arrested on 11th May 2013. His residences at Wonderland Amusement Park, Abuja, and 58 Adetokumbo Ademola Street Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, were duly searched in the course of which prohibited firearms and other incriminating items were discovered. A copy of the duly endorsed searched warrant and pictures of the said firearms are hereby exhibited and marked exhibits 1 and 1A-D respectively.
“That further investigation led to the arrest of Abdullah TAHINI (1st respondent) on 12th May, 2013 at the Mallam Aminu Kano, International Airport Kano, on his way to Egypt en route Lebanon. He was found to be in possession of the sum of sixty one thousand, one hundred and seventy United State’s Dollars ($61,170).”
FG further told the court that “On May 26, the No. 3 Gaya road Nasarawa LGA Kano residence of one Ahmed Hassan Taher (now at large) a relative of the 2nd respondent was searched. At the material time, Talal RODA (3rd respondent) and a suspect in the unfolding investigation was found in the house. He was arrested in the course of the search which was conducted in his presence as he had access to the hidden recesses discovered in the premises”.
“A further search of the Kano residence led to the discovery of large cache sophisticated weapons and weapons of mass destructions. It was a war arsenal. A copy of the duly endorsed search warrant executed on the residence is as well as pictures of the discovered prohibited arms are exhibited and marked exhibits 2” it alleged.
However, counsel to the three Lebanese, Chief Clarke, SAN, told the court that he was only served the counter affidavit by the respondent’s counsel, Richard Osagie yesterday, saying he would need time to respond.
“I have always refused serving of processes in court. It is not legal way of practicing this profession. However, the counter affidavit of the respondent contains serious depositions that we have to digest very well before filing our reply counter affidavit on points of law” Clarke stated.
While granting him time to respond, the court equally directed the DSS to grant the accused persons access to their lawyers.
It will be recalled that the accused persons were arrested by the Military Joint Task Force, JTF, sequel to their alleged involvement in ownership of a large cache of weapons of different types and caliber.
The weapons were uncovered at an underground bunker at No. 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano, after a combined team of the JTF involving soldiers from 3 Brigade in Kano and Kano DSS conducted a thorough search of the bunker.
Roda who was said to have surreptitiously secured a Nigerian passport was said to have been arrested at the underground bunker by the military operatives.
The weapons recovered included anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled guns, anti-tank/anti-personnel mines and other dangerous weapons. According to the security operatives that conducted the search, the arms and ammunition were properly concealed with several layers of concrete and placed in coolers, drums and bags neatly wrapped.