…Seeks transfer from DSS custody to Kuje Prisons
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, has filed an application before the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking to be transferred from custody of the Department of State Service, DSS, to the prisons in Kuje.
Kanu, in the application filed through his team of lawyers, led by Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, decried the fact that he had been denied access to his doctors.
The IPOB leader said he might die in custody of the DSS, if nothing was done to urgently address his deteriorating health condition.
He specifically applied for an order of the trial court, “directing the transfer of the applicant from the custody of the National Headquarters of the Department of State Service, DSS, to the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre in Kuje, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, where he was initially detained before he was granted bail pending the determination of the charge.
“An order of this honourable court directing the defendant/applicant’s custodian, to grant access to his medical experts/doctors to carry out a comprehensive independent medical examination of the defendant/applicant’s health condition/status, while in custody.”
It will be recalled that Kanu whose whereabouts were hitherto unknown, was on June 27 returned to the country after he was arrested from a yet-to-be confirmed African country.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, had insisted that Kanu was lawfully “intercepted” as a result of a collaborative effort of various security agencies in the country.
However, Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, disclosed that his client was on June 18, illegally arrested at the airport and detained for eight days by Kenya’s Special Police Force before he was eventually handed over to their Nigerian counterpart.
Ejiofor alleged that the IPOB leader was tortured and subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment in Kenya, a situation he said worsened his health condition.
Trial Justice Binta Nyako had upon Kanu’s return to Nigeria, ordered his remand in DSS custody, even as his trial on treasonable felony charge, which was initially fixed for October, was brought forward to July 26.
Mental, psychological torture
Meanwhile, in the fresh application, Kanu alleged that he had been “subjected to mental and psychological torture” by the DSS, saying it would be in the interest of justice for the court to order his transfer to the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre, which he described as “an impartial facility that had no interest whatsoever” in the outcome of his trial.
An affidavit he attached in support of the application, read: “That this charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 came up on June 29, 2021 and the applicant was brought before the court in chains, handcuffs and leg-cuffs, blindfolded, and was consequently remanded in the custody of the Department of State Service, even though there was no legal representation for the defendant, and the matter was, therefore, adjourned to the 26th day of July 2021 for trial.
“That the counsel to the applicant was not served with any hearing notice before the appearance of the applicant in court, neither were they aware that any action was scheduled to take place in the criminal charge No. FCH/ABJ/CR/383/2015 on that June 29, 2021.
“That on June 30, 2021, the applicant’s solicitors formally wrote to the Department of State Service to allow the applicant’s solicitors have access to the applicant. A copy of the said letter is hereby attached and marked as Exhibit MNK 1.
“That on July 2, 2021, at about 12:32pm, the Department of State Service called me to inform me that our request to visit the applicant has been approved and that I should come by 4:00 pm to see defendant.
“That on the said July 2, 2021 at about 5:00pm, at the DSS Headquarters, in Abuja, the applicant informed me of the following facts, which I verily believed to be accurate and correct as follows: That he was kidnapped and/or abducted by Kenyan security forces on June 19, 2021, specifically at Nairobi Airport.
“That he was detained by the personnel of the Kenyan Police Force for eight days, and was throughout this period of detention subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment, brutal torture, causing grave and severe heart problem that almost took his life. That he was detained in an unconventional facility, not necessarily a police detention center in Kenya.
“That throughout this detention in Kenya, he was never allowed access to his relatives before he was handed over to their Nigerian security counterparts, who smuggled him into Nigeria in clear violation of his rights.
That since he was smuggled into this country on June 27, 2021, he has been kept in solitary confinement without access to his family members, relatives, wife, cousins, and children, except his lawyer, who only visits after they must secure the approval and endorsement of the Director-General of the Department of State Service, which approval are not usually granted as a matter of course.
“That he is still being subjected to mental and psychological torture by his custodians, on account of the conditions of his solitary confinement. That an ECG examination was carried out on the defendant, and it was discovered that the defendant’s heart had been enlarged by more than 13 per cent, posing a serious threat and danger to defendant’s life.
“That there is a need for the defendant to have access to his medical doctors to avert the danger looming against the life of the defendant. That the health personnel attending to the defendant in the custody of the Department of State Service is not adequate considering the circumstances of the defendant’s health condition.
“That the defendant requires the services of his medical experts as his medical records issued by the Chief Cardiologist of Nairobi Hospital who has the defendant’s medical records, mainly, before the arrest/abduction of the applicant shows a debilitating medical condition. Copies of these medical records showing the applicant’s subsisting health condition are hereby attached and marked as Exhibit MNK.
“That if the health condition of the defendant is not addressed most promptly, the defendant may die in custody, even before his trial. It is essential that the defendant’s medical experts/consultants be allowed to carry out proper, thorough, and independent medical examinations of the defendant to save the defendant’s life.
Regular medical observation/attention
“That the defendant needs regular medical observation/attention by the defendant’s medical specialists/consultants in cardiology. That the defendant’s medical specialists (including the Chief Cardiologist of Nairobi Hospital) in Kenya have his complete medical records that will easily aid the examination of the defendant and treatment thereof.
“That the defendant undertakes to bear any cost incidental to getting the medical experts to attend to his ill health while in custody. The defendant can only be alive to stand his trial, which cannot be guaranteed because of his rapidly deteriorating health situation.
“The defendant cannot effectively put up a defence to the charge against him, in his present deteriorating health condition. That I know that upon the arraignment of the applicant, this honourable court in its wisdom initially remanded the applicant in Kuje Correctional Service Centre, where he was held for almost two years before bail was consequently granted to the applicant.
“That for the almost two years the applicant was in custody in Kuje Correctional facility, there was never any complaint about any form of misconduct against him. That the DSS is not a detention centre, neither does it have the requisite custodial facilities to enhance the conditions of the occupants/inmates.
“That the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre is an impartial facility that has no interest whatsoever in the outcome of this charge. That the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre is the only body statutorily empowered to keep custody of persons facing criminal trial in courts, hence, the necessity to transfer the Applicant to the Nigerian Correctional Service Center Kuje.
“That it will serve the interest of justice and enhance fair hearing for this honourable court to transfer the applicant from the DSS to the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre in Kuje, Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court.
“That the applicant has very limited access to his lawyers, who can only visit him after the approval of the Director of the Department of State Service has been first sought and obtained, which said approval in most cases, takes days and that the above situation would greatly impede the Defendant’s preparation for his defense to the charge against him.
“That the favourable consideration of this application is compelling in the circumstance of the present notice for the resumption of the court’s annual vacation, which would affect the hearing on the substantive charge already slated for the 26th day of July 2021. That fair hearing can only be guaranteed when the applicant is not remanded in the custody of his accusers.
“That it is a fact that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. That it will greatly aid and serve the interest of Justice if this application is granted. That the respondent will not be prejudiced by the grant of this application. That I depose to this affidavit in good faith believing same to be true and correct and in accordance with the oath Act.”
It will be recalled that Kanu was on April 25, 2016, released on bail by the court on health ground, after he had spent about a year and seven months in detention.
To secure his release, the Senator representing Abia South, Enyinnaya Abaribe, an Accountant, Mr. Tochukwu Uchendu and a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El- Salom Oka BenMadu, on April 28, 2016, signed an undertaking to ensure his attendance in court.
Nevertheless, following the disappearance of the Defendant after he was released on bail, the court, on November 14, 2018, ordered the three sureties to forfeit the N100million bail bond they each consented to.
Similarly, the court, on March 28, 2019, revoked Kanu’s bail and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
Kanu’s lawyer had protested the revocation of his client’s bail, insisting that his disappearance was occasioned by the unwarranted invasion of his home at Afaraukwu in Abia State by the Nigerian Army, a development he said led to the death of many innocent persons that were in the compound at the time of the invasion.