By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, Tuesday challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his promise by ending what he called ‘indiscriminate arrest and detention’ of citizens and foreigners by Department of State Security (DSS), against court orders.
In an open letter to the President, a copy made available to Vanguard, Falana attributed the failure on the part of the Federal Government to call the leadership of the security agency to order as what is responsible for the misleading impression that the present administration does not have respect for the fundamental rights of Nigerians.
Quoting from the speech made by President Buhari on his inauguration, Falana noted that the President “pledged to end the culture of impunity in Nigeria, but contrary to Your Excellency’s pledge the State Security Service otherwise called the Department of State Security (DSS) has engaged in the indiscriminate arrest and detention of many citizens and foreigners living in Nigeria.”
Mentioning specifically three areas where the DSS has allegedly violated the citizens’ rights, Falana noted that the agency has flouted court orders on the release of the former national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zainab and Messrs Nitin Verma and Umesh Asudani, two India nationals.
He said the, “incessant disobedience of court orders by the DSS has questioned the commitment of the administration to operate under the Rule of Law. At the recently concluded annual conference of Nigerian Judges which held in Abuja, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen was compelled to condemn official disregard for court rulings and orders.”
He argued further that despite the ouster of the jurisdiction of the courts in the Decrees, the detention of any person which could not be justified by the detaining authorities was declared illegal by the courts, adding, “It is on record that political detainees whose detention orders were quashed by the courts were released from illegal custody.
“Hence, under the current democratic dispensation the fundamental right of every person to personal liberty is guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Thus, under the prevailing human rights law regime in Nigeria, if anyone is going to be detained beyond 24 or 48 hours the detaining authority is mandatorily required to obtain a remand order from a Magistrate Court in line with section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”
Falana stated further that, “DSS has acquired notoriety for arresting and detaining innocent members of the public without any legal justification whatsoever. From the information at our disposal the DSS has detained several Nigerians and foreigners to settle personal scores. Others have been arrested and detained by the DSS on the suspicion that they have committed criminal offences, a matter that is within the purview of the Police and the anti graft agencies.”
He therefore urged President Buhari to expedite action in wiping the officers to line and respect court orders.