New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

Court slams N5m fine on DSS over unlawful detention of driver

Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of a Federal High Court in Abuja has imposed a fine of N5 million on the Department of State Services (DSS) over the unlawful arrest and detention of an Abuja-based commercial driver, Sanusi Shuaib. The court further ordered that the N5 million must be paid to the detainee while it also ordered the DSS to immediately release him having held him in detention without trial since January 16, 2023. in a judgement, the judge held that the DSS flagrantly flouted Section 35 of the Constitution which prohibited detention of any Nigerian beyond a maximum period of 48 hours without an order of court.

Justice Olajuwon noted that the DSS had on March 29, 2023 got an order of the Federal High Court to hold and detain the driver for only 20 days to investigate and charge him to court if indicted for any criminal offence. The judge declared that since the DSS did not apply to the court for extension of the 20 days detention period and also did not charge the driver to court for any offence, any detention outside the 20 days was unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null and void. Justice Olajuwon, in the judgement, agreed that the fundamental rights of the applicant to freedom of movement has been breached by the DSS. He also faulted the claim of the DSS that it was granted six months to detain the driver, adding that what the court granted was just 20 days. Justice Olajuwon also disagreed with the DSS that the detainee had been moved to a military detention facility in Gwagwa, Niger State, for trial in terrorism offences, adding that there was no evidence to that effect placed before the court. The judge also faulted the claim of the security agency that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice gave approval for the trial of the driver. Justice Olajuwon, who quoted the letter of the AGF, said that the AGF office only recommended that fresh investigation be conducted into the allegations against the driver, but which was never done.

The judge, therefore, nullified the continued detention of the driver and ordered his immediate release from the DSS custody in Abuja. The detained driver had, through his lawyer, Bala Dakum, dragged the DSS before the court to challenge his detention without trial since his arrest on March 16, 2023. He claimed that the DSS, upon his arrest, accused him of being in possession of firearms for some terrorists and had since remained in the custody of the respondent. The applicant prayed for his release and a N50 million compensation for the unlawful detention.

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