Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja on behalf of Jones Abiri, a journalist who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSSS) since June 2016, without charge.
According to Punch, the suit, which was filed on Tuesday, sought among other prayers an order directing the DSS to pay the journalist N200m in damages for the illegal violation of his fundamental rights.
The suit prayed for a declaration that Abiri’s detention in Abuja without access to his family members, friends and medical doctors since his arrest on July 21, 2016 “is illegal and unconstitutional”.
Falana argued that the detention violates the applicant’s fundamental rights, including his rights to personal liberty, dignity of person, fair hearing, health and association, and freedom of association.
He also contended that Abiri’s rights, which were violated by the DSS, are guaranteed by sections 34, 35 and 40 of the Constitution as well as Articles 11 and 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
A litigation clerk in Falana’s law firm, Paul Ochayi, said in an affidavit filed in support of the suit that Abiri was arrested without warrant by “the armed agents” of the DSS in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on July 21, 2016.
“There is no court order which authorised the detention of the applicant… and the agency has not charged the applicant to any court”, the affidavit added.
The supporting affidavit also stated: “That the respondent’s agents brought the applicant from Yenogoa to Abuja on July 21, 2016 and have since then held him incommunicado.
“That the respondent has failed to charge the applicant with any offence.”
It also said that Abiri who has aged parents, wife and children has not committed any offence known to law to warrant his “continuous, unwarranted and illegal detention”.
The matter has not been assigned to a judge yet.