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Onumah files N100m suit against DSS for rights violation, unlawful detention  

CHIDO Onumah, the Executive Director of African Centre for Media and Literacy (AFRIMIL) has approached the Federal High Court, Abuja to sue the Department of State Security (DSS), and its Director-General Yusuf Bichi for violating his fundamental human rights.

In a motion filed on Onumah’s behalf by his Counsel, Moses Ideh,  Bichi stands as the first defendant while the DSS is the second respondent.

“Compensatory damages in the sum of N100, 000, 000 only, to the applicant for the violation of his fundamental human rights,” the motion reads.

“Exemplary damages in the sum of N50, 000, 000 only to the applicant for setback, trauma, psychological and emotional distress experienced and still being experienced.”

This follows his unlawful arrest and detention by the operatives of DSS on September 29 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport as he returned from Barcelona, Spain, where he had gone to defended his PhD thesis.

In the suit, the author and former journalist recalled how he was arrested and detained by the secret police on his arrival from Spain at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja.

He said the DSS of unlawfully held him from about 5pm to 10:30 pm on the said date without a prior court order.

Onumah maintained that the action contradicts Section 35 and 41 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.

However, he said his T-shirts were seized during the arrest while he also demanded that a thorough investigation should be conducted on the officers either directly or remotely responsible in the act.

“Declaration that the arrest and detention of the applicant at the NAIA on the 29th of September, 2019 at about 5:00pm to 10:30 pm by officials and/or agents of the respondents without lawful cause and without an order of court constitutes a violation of his fundamental human rights to dignity of his person, person liberty, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression as provided in Section 34, 35 and 39 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended,” the motion reads in part.

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“Declaration that the unlawful seizure of the applicant’s T-Shirt and coercion to write an undertaking never to wear the said T-shirt again by officials and/ or Agents of the respondents amounts to violation of his right to own property and his right to freedom of expression as contained in Section 30 and 44 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“Declaration that the mental and physical trauma which the applicant had to endure during the period of time he was held in detention by officials and/or agents of the respondents constitutes a violation of his right to dignity of his person as provided in Section 34 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”

Other parts of the motion include, “an order of mandamus compelling the 1st respondent to carry out a thorough and in-depth investigation and prosecution of all its officers and/ or agents directly or remotely responsible for the applicant’s unlawful arrest and violation of his rights.

“A written unreserved apology from the respondents to the applicant to be published in two national dailies for the harassments and unwarranted mental and physical trauma meted on the applicant while in custody of the respondents.

“An order for immediate release of the applicant’s T-shirt.”

Aside from seeking reliefs, Onumah also did an affidavit narrating how he was confined to a space during detention at the DSS office and also coerced to write an undertaking against his wish not to wear any t-shirt with the inscription “We Are All Biafrans”.

“I was in custody of the respondents for a period of five hours 30 minutes before the respondents released me.

“During my period of incarceration at the respondents’ facility, my freedom of movement was restricted, my telephone and international passports were ceased and I was treated like a common criminal,” the affidavit partly reads.

The ICIR earlier wrote on the incidence, followed by an exclusive interview detailing the drama that ensued and how he was eventually taken from the Abuja airport to the DSS Headquarters, in the guise of protecting him from purported agitators.

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