Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
The Nigeria Navy and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) has informed the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, that a Lagos-based hotelier, Mr. Saibu Ogunmola, whom the court directed them to produce before it, is in custody of Department of State Security (DSS).
Ogunmola, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Peace and Love International Hotel, Igbo Eseyore, Snake island, Lagos, has been in detention since January 17, 2019, after he was arrested by men of the Nigerian Navy.
Following the refusal of the Navy to arraign him before any court, after being detained for over 90 days, his lawyer, McAnthony Aikharialea, approached the court for an order for his release.
It would be recalled that Justice Lilian Ijeoma Ojukwu, had on April 17, while granting an exparte application filed by the hotelier’s lawyer, ordered the respondents which includes Chief of Naval Staff, Commander, NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), as respondents, to appear before her with the hotelier and show cause why they refused to arraigned him.
Only the DIA filed a counter-affidavit to the application.
The DIA through its counsel, C. O. Abodunde, told the court that the Nigerian Navy, after the order had since came to move the applicant from their custody with a concluded arrangement to hand him over to prosecuting government agency.
In the same vein, the Nigeria Navy, through its counter-affidavit filed and argued before the court by its lawyer, Anthony Ebeh and deposed to by Lieutenant Commodore Richard Iyinbo, also told the court that the applicant is not in its custody, adding that since it is not a prosecuting agency, it has since handed over the suspect to the DSS for further investigation and possible prosecution.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter, the hotelier lawyer, Aikharialea, while moving his application to join DSS in the suit, asked the court for a declaration that the arrest and detention of his client by all the respondents is a violation of his fundamental rights sections 35, 41 and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of 1999.
He also asked the court for an order restraining all the respondents from further arresting, detaining or any other manner of infringing upon the fundamental human rights of his client and an order compelling the respondents from whether by themselves or their officers, agents, privies to forthwith release his client.
The lawyer also asked the court for an order awarding the sum N2.5 million as general damages against the respondents for breach of his client’s fundamental human rights.
Upon moving motion the to join the DSS in the suit, the DIA’s counsel informed the court that the hotelier is in the custody of DSS adding that DSS normally prosecute for the Nigeria Navy.
Following the revelation made by counsel to DIA, lawyer to the hotelier told the court that DSS supposed to be an impetus to have either file a charges against his client and arraign or join in the ongoing suit but unfortunately, the lawyer said that was not the case.
Aikharialea while urging the court to grant the application to join the DSS in the suit said, the fundamental question is what the agency is aiming at by keeping a suspect after investigation has been concluded.
Upon hearing the submissions of the applicant, Nigeria Navy and DIA, Justice Ojukwu, granted the application to join the DSS in the suit, while adjourning the case till June 13, for further hearing.