It is a shocker for Nigerians to hear about 57 Nigerians languishing in crowded cells inside the NNS Beecroft cells in Apapa, and another 10 inside a vessel in Marina, both in Lagos.
This is inspite of alleged public denials by the Nigerian Navy of holding anybody in its cells.
The matter just returned to the public burner following a threat by human rights activist and lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to sue the concerned bodies.
Falana, in a petition to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, entitled: Request for release of 40 Nigerian citizens from illegal custody of Nigerian Navy, said: “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.”
Falana said: “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, EFCC, which has filed charges against them at the Federal High Court.
“Meanwhile, 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 mentioned a suit filed by the Swiss Government 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, adding:
“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 in Lagos while 10 others are incarcerated inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos..” …
“Given the foregoing, we urge you to use your good offices to visit the aforesaid detention centres to release the detainees or direct 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.
“If you fail or refuse to accede to our request within seven days of the receipt of this letter on grounds of interagency solidarity, we shall not hesitate to file a writ of mandamus against the Commission at the Federal High Court,” Falana said