October 23, 2019

Onumah seeks N150m damages from DSS over illegal detention


Mr Chido Onumah, a journalist and rights activist, on Wednesday, demanded N150 million compensation from the Department of State Security Services (DSS) over alleged illegal detention.

Activist Chido Onumah

In a suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1270/2019 filed by his Lawyer, Moses Ideh, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Onumah also sought “the enforcement of his fundamental human rights to dignity of his person, right to personal liberty, freedom of expression and right to own personal property brought pursuant to Section 34, 35, 39, 41 and 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while Onumah is the applicant, Mr Yusuf Bichi, who is the DG of DSS, is the 1st respondent and the DSS as an agency is a 2nd respondent in the case.

NAN reports that Onumah was said to have been arrested recently by the DSS operatives at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, and detained for several hours for wearing a T-shirt with the inscription: “We Are All Biafrans.”

The inscription on the shirt is the exact title of a book Onumah authored three years ago. However, the DSS said it did not arrest him, saying the activist “was rather engaged in an interaction during which an act of his capable of undermining public order and national security was explained to him.”

In the suit, Onumah, who is the Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information. Literacy, said his arrest and detention on Sept. 29 at about 5 pm to 10:30 pm by the security agency without lawful cause and without court order constituted a violation. of his fundamental human rights to dignity of his person, personal liberty, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

He, therefore, demanded compensatory damages of N100 million for the violation of his fundamental human rights and exemplary damages of N50 million for a setback, trauma, psychological and emotional distress experienced and still being experienced.

Other requests made by the applicant include:

“A DECLARATION that the unlawful seizure of the Applicant’s T-Shirt and coercion to write an undertaking never to wear the said T-Shirt again by Officials and/or Agents of the Respondents amounts to a violation of his right to own property and his right to Freedom of Expression as contained in Section 39 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“A DECLARATION that the mental and physical trauma which the Applicant had to endure during the period of time he was held in detention by Officials and/or Agents of the Respondents constitutes a violation of his right to dignity of his person as provided in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS compelling the 1St Respondent to carry out a thorough and in-depth investigation and prosecution of all its Officers and/ or agents directly and remotely responsible for the Applicant’s unlawful arrest and violation of his fundamental rights.

“A written unreserved apology from the Respondents to the Applicant to be published in two National Dailies for the harassment and unwarranted mental and physical trauma meted on the Applicant while in custody of the Respondents.

“AN ORDER for the immediate release of the Applicant’s T-shirt.”

The matter is yet to be assigned to a judge.

Vanguard News