Activist and publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-detainee, Olawale Bakare, have filed N1bn suits before the Federal High Court in Abuja against the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Both men, who have been in the custody of the DSS since August, 2019, sought N500m damages each in their separate suits.
They sought the award of the total sum of N1bn “as general and aggravated damages” for the “illegal violation of their fundamental rights” to life, dignity of their person, fair hearing, health, freedom of movement and freedom of association.
They alleged that their arrest and the physical attack unleashed on them by operatives of the DSS in Lagos and Osogbo, Osun State, on August 2 and 5 respectively as well as their continued illegal detention by the security agency, constituted a violation of their rights.
They alleged that the two respondents, the DSS DG and the AGF, violated their various rights guaranteed under sections 35, 36 and 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and articles 6 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Their separate suits were filed on their behalf by their team of lawyers led by Femi Falana (SAN).
While Sowore’s suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1407/2019, was filed on November 15, 2019, that of Bakare, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1428/2019, was filed on November 20, 2019.
A lawyer in their defence team, Marshal Abubakar, who deposed to the affidavits filed in support of the suits, stated that Sowore was arrested in Lagos on August 2, while Bakare in Osogbo on August 5.
The lawyer said the two men were detained illegally without a court order till August 8, 2019, when Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court gave the agency permission to hold them for 45 days.
While still in detention, Sowore and Bakare were charged with treasonable felony and other sundry charges.
But on September 24, 2019, upon the expiration of the 45-day detention period, Justice Taiwo ordered the release of the two men.
The DSS DG refused to comply with the order and continued to hold the men in custody.
The detainees were on September 30, 2019, arraigned before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Abubakar said on November 6, 2019, Justice Ojukwu ordered the release of the applicants upon their satisfactorily meeting their bail conditions.
He added that despite acknowledging the service of the release orders of the court on November 7, 2019, the DSS DG refused to comply with the order for the release of the men.
The applicants, therefore, asked the court to declare that their arrest without warrant of arrest “is illegal as it violates” their fundamental rights to personal liberty.”
They sought, among others, the court to declare that “the physical attack unleashed” on them by armed agents of the respondents during their arrest is illegal as it violates their fundamental rights to dignity of person.
They, therefore, asked the court to declare that their detention from November 7, 2019, till date in violation of the order for their release made on November 6, 2019, is illegal and violates their fundamental rights to liberty.
They also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further violating their fundamental rights in any manner, whatsoever and howsoever, without lawful justification.