A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), on Tuesday wrote to the Acting Director-General of the Department of State Services (also known as State Security Service), Matthew Seiyefa, demanding the names of 294 Nigerian citizens allegedly held in the agency’s custody illegally.
Falana, whose request relies on the provision of the Freedom of Information Act, threatened to sue the agency if his demand was not met within seven days.
Although he thanked Seyeifa for honouring his earlier letter dated August 20, 2018 by releasing some persons who had been detained for over two years without trial, he said he had since learnt from some recently released detainees that not less than 294 others were still being held illegally by the DSS.
According to him, the 294 citizens were being held in “dehumanising and degrading conditions” in the underground cells located at the DSS headquarters in Abuja.
Falana’s fresh letter dated, September 11, 2018, and addressed to Seiyefa, was titled, ‘Request for the names of the 294 citizens detained illegally in the custody of State Security Service.’
His letter read in part, “My letter dated August 20, 2018 requesting for the immediate release of hundreds of persons held incommunicado in the custody of the State Security Service refers.
“I thank you for acceding to my request by releasing some of the persons who had been detained for over two years without trial. However, I have confirmed from the detainees who have just regained their freedom that no fewer than 294 others are still being held in dehumanising and degrading conditions in the underground cells located in the headquarters of the State Security Service in Abuja.
“As no person can be legally detained beyond 48 hours without a court order in any part of Nigeria under the current democratic dispensation, you will agree with me that the detention of the 294 persons in the custody of the State Security Service for over two years is the height of official impunity as it constitutes a gross infringement of their fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
Apart from threatening a legal action, Falana also said he had requested the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, to designate judges to conduct a monthly visitation of the detention facilities of the DSS and other law enforcement agencies in line with the provisions of Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The letter also reads, “In order to put an end to such prolonged detention of citizens without trial, I have requested the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to designate judges to conduct a monthly visitation of the detention facilities of the State Security Service and other law enforcement agencies in line with the provisions of Section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“However, in exercise of my right under the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request you to avail me of the names of the 294 detainees and the particulars of the criminal offences allegedly committed by each of them. In case any of the detainees has been charged with any offence in any court of law you are also requested to supply the details of the cases and the trial courts.
“Take notice that as this request is made under the Freedom of Information Act, you are obligated to supply the required information not later than seven days with effect from the date of the receipt of this letter.”
12th September, 2018
Ade Adesomoju, Abuja