Rights Group Decry Unlawful Detention of 22 Persons by Navy

Rights Group Decry Unlawful Detention of 22 Persons by Navy

…Says their Fundamental Human Rights are Being Grossly Violated The Centre Against Impunity in Nigeria (CAIN) has strongly frowned at the illegal arrests and detention of 22 persons by the Navy for the past nine months without trial, insisting that their fundamental human rights as enshrined in both the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter

…Says their Fundamental Human Rights are Being Grossly Violated

The Centre Against Impunity in Nigeria (CAIN) has strongly frowned at the illegal arrests and detention of 22 persons by the Navy for the past nine months without trial, insisting that their fundamental human rights as enshrined in both the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, have been grossly violated. The organisation has also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene on the matter.

“We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on authorities of the Nigerian Navy to disclose to Nigerians what their offences are or release them forthwith if there are no charges against them,” it said.

According to CAIN National Chairman, Mr Shina Loremikan, the detained persons who were arrested sometime in September 2018, include Captain Dada Labinjo, his wife, Lt Commander Sherifat Ibe Lambert, Mr Segun Yusuf, Mr Benjamin Gold, Mr Peter Pulle, Mr Rueben Onoja, Mr Adeleke Adewale and Mr Pius Paul.

Others are Mr Kehinde Labinjo, Mr Oluwaseun Ogunmoyero, Mr Emmanuel Oputa and Mr Innocent Sunday, Mr Friday Lejoro, Mr Hamza Yakubu, Master Melvin Jack, Mr Mayowa Adebayo Mate,  Mr Francis Onyema Mate, Mr Godwill Umoh, Mr Bosin Miebaka Iyala, Mr Fidelis  Edu,  Mr Richard David and Daniel Harrison.

Mr Loremikan maintained that both Captain Labinjo and his wife, Lt Commander Lambert “had a distinguished career in the Nigerian Navy and served their fatherland to the best of their abilities until their services were unlawfully terminated by the Naval Authority.”

He said the dismissal was declared unlawful by the Federal High Court of Nigeria on February 26th and both Captain Dada Labinjo and Lt Commander Ibe Lambert were ordered to be reinstated.

The Navy however appealed the decision at both the  Appeal Court and Supreme Court and lost.

But rather than comply with the lawful order of the Federal High Court as affirmed by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, the Navy resorted to “self help with the sole aim of denying them the fruit of their judgment.”

As if that was not enough, the Naval authority “began systemic and deliberate physical, emotional and psychological attacks of the person of Captain Labinjo, his wife, his children, his friends and businesses.”

The CAIN national chairman claimed that “as a result of a sustained, persistent and consistent attack on his person, Captain Labinjo’s health began to deteriorate drastically and had to be flown to India for a life saving surgery .”

Sometimes in September 2018, while still recuperating, some Naval officers “descended on the premises of Captain Labinjo, arrested him alongside his wife,” Loremikan narrated,

Thereafter, all crew members of his ship, “Adreline Jumbo” were equally arrested and detained.

The arrest and detention was effected by an Exparte Order from a Magistrate Court. However, three months after, the Magistrate court vacated the order and ordered the release of all the detainees forthwith.

But the Nigerian Navy rather than complying with the said Order, “surreptitiously removed all the detainees to an unknown location.”

The detainees thereafter approached the Federal High Court for an Order enforcing their fundamental rights which was granted while the Court directed the Navy to release the detainees, but it has refused to comply with the Order.

He said that all the detainees have been denied access to their solicitors, doctors and family members adding that “the denial by the Naval Authority of the whereabouts of these detainees raises a grave concern for their safety and well being.”

“It is sad that in a democracy, Nigerian citizens were detained for almost a year without bail or trial contrary to the provision of the constitution,” CAIN said..

“It has thus become worrisome and dangerous that a department or organ of the state has made it a habit to disobey valid order of Court. A resort to self help in this matter calls for an urgent and immediate review by the media and its allies.

“Under and by virtue of Section 287(3) of the Constitution which is binding on the Nigerian Navy provides “ The decision of the Federal High Court, a High Court and of all other court established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and person…..”

“This provision makes it clear that the law is no respecter of anybody. By spreading its dragnet to “ all authority and persons “ the Constitution has simply made it mandatory that once an order is in existence, it must be obeyed, no matter the status of the person or institution involved.

“One is bound therefore to ask why the Nigerian Navy is refusing to obey the order of Federal High Court directing the release of all these Nigerian citizens. Is Nigerian Navy above the Constitution?

“It’s appalling that Nigerian Navy that is supposed to set good example for other institutions to follow, but they have instead shown a flagrant disobedience to lawful court order by openly promoting lawlessness in our nation from the vantage point of their power and position.

Apart from Captain Labinjo and his wife, Loremikan said that, “other families involved in this unlawful arrest and detention have suffered untold hardships because their breadwinners have been incarcerated unjustly.”

“We are not saying they should not be tried, if they have done any wrong. What we are saying is that the Navy should tell Nigerians the offence they have committed and prosecute them in line with the laws.

“The Navy can only arrest and not prosecute, therefore they should take them to court if they have a case them rather than illegally detain them for nine months,” he said.

Loremikan said the group believed that the President as a defender of the rule of law would intervene in the matter to save families of the detainees from their agonies.

Wife of one of the detainees, Mrs Helen Yakubu, said things had been difficult since her husband, Mr Hamza Yakubu, was detained.

The mother of four children said she had to take her kids to her mother as she could no longer take care of the kids.

Mrs Yakubu said she was not opposed to the prosecution of her husband if he’s found wanting of  and wrong doing, but noted that detaining him and others without trial was an act of impunity.

“I am calling on President Buhari to intervene in this matter. My husband is innocent and things have been difficult for the family. The Navy authorities should release my husband because he has done nothing wrong and if they think he has done anything wrong they should try him,” she said.

Photo: A cross section of participants at the press conference addressed by the group

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