A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the National Human Rights Commission to visit a “crowded” detention facility in Lagos where the Nigerian Navy is allegedly holding no fewer than 67 persons illegally.
According to him, the 67 persons have been in the navy detention for periods ranging between three and 18 months for undisclosed alleged criminal offences and they are not charged to court.
He said these included, apart from 40 others, a senior naval officer, Captain Dada Labinjo, being detained elsewhere.
Falana said this in an August 15, 2019 letter addressed to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC.
He claimed that alleged illegal detention of citizens and foreigners by the navy was exposing Nigeria to international ridicule.
The lawyer recalled that Switzerland had dragged Nigeria before a Zurich court over the seizure of its vessel and the continued detention of its Ukranian crew members by the navy.
Falana complained that despite the failure of the naval authorities to respond to a petition against them, the NHRC had failed to sanction anyone.
He said, “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.
“As you are, no doubt, aware, the Swiss Government has filed a suit against the Federal Government of Nigeria in Zurich over the detention of a vessel and its crew members of four Ukrainians by the Nigerian Navy for the past 18 months.
“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, Lagos while 10 others are incarcerated inside a vessel at Marina, Lagos.
“Even though the 67 people have been accused of committing undisclosed criminal offences they have been detained by the Nigerian Navy for periods ranging from three months to 18 months without any remand order issued by a magistrate court or any judge in Nigeria.”
Falana urged the NHRC to accede to his request within seven days, failing which he threatened to sue the commission.