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Families of persons in navy detention count losses, seek release

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[File] Femi Falana (SAN)

More than seven months since the arrest and illegal detention of 15 Nigerians, including three top military officers, by the Nigerian Navy without prosecution, distraught family members of the victims said their patience is running out.

To underscore the anguish families of the detainees have been going through, foremost human rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, wrote to the Federal Government on behalf of the detained persons demanding their release or prosecution.

The government is yet to make any public statement on their detention. In an exclusive chat with The Guardian, some families of the 15 detainees said they have had to endure months of painful mental torture, anxiety and desperation and, therefore, want the military hierarchy to save the situation.

“It has been seven months of emotional torture when you have been used to doing things together and suddenly you are all by yourself without knowing your partner’s whereabouts. It is even worse than death,” wife of one of those being held captive told The Guardian.

The detainees were arrested in September 2018 for an undisclosed offence and have since been kept incommunicado at different military detention facilities. They were first detained in a military detention facility in Apapa, Lagos but were later moved to another military detention facility in Abuja.

But in an attempt to legalise the detention, the Naval authorities tried to obtain a remand warrant from a Magistrate Court in Apapa but failed.

On January 7, 2019, the court ordered the Naval authorities to release them from illegal custody. But in flagrant disregard and in contempt of the court order, the Navy instead transferred the detainees to Abuja from the initial detention centre in Apapa.

Falana said the detention “cannot be justified under the Constitution”, and therefore called for the prosecution of the “naval personnel responsible for the violations of the fundamental rights of the detainees.

“The fundamental right of the detainees to dignity has been violated as they are being held incommunicado in solitary confinement while they are subjected to physical, mental and psychological torture in total contravention of section 3(2) of the Anti Torture Act, 2017 which provides that “secret detention places, solitary confinement, incommunicado or other similar forms of detention where torture is carried out are prohibited,” Falana said.


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