Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Detainees Absolved!!

Dear Diary:
From "The Vanguard" newspaper, December 1, 2008:

Court declares Bisina’s arrest by JTF unlawful E-mail
Written by Emma Amaize
Monday, 01 December 2008

A Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, Edo State, last Friday, declared the arrest, on April 12, of a Nigerian, Mr. Joel Bisina and three American filmmakers who were in Nigeria to shoot a documentary, entitled, “Sweet Crude” by men of the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) as illegal and a breach of the constitution, and awarded N5 million damages against the Federal Government.

Mr. Bisina, a human rights activist and his foreign guests were whisked to Abuja by road the same day they were arrested and they spent about six days in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) before they were released.

On his release, Bisina approached the Federal High Court through his counsel, Dr. Bello Orubebe, praying for declarations that his arrest, detention and harassment without access to his counsel and medical attention breached his fundamental human rights and asked for a cumulative damages of N15 million.

The respondents were the Attorney General of the Federation, the Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector General of Police, Commander of the Joint Military Task Force and the State Security Services.

The presiding judge, Justice M. B. Idris in his judgment granted all the prayers by the plaintiff and held that the arrest and detention of Bisina was illegal, unconstitutional and null and void, adding that the denial of access to medical personnel in itself also constitute breach of fundamental human rights.

Idris also declared as unconstitutional the demand for security pass by the military in the Niger- Delta waterways and ordered the defendants to tender unreserved public apology to the plaintiff and also pay him a compensation for general damages to the tune of N5 million.

Orubebe, counsel to the plaintiff speaking to reporters, described the judgment as an erudite, well written judgment, noting that it was not just a landmark judgment but that it had taken human right judgment and practice to the 21st century.

The Federal Government had earlier lost a preliminary objection in which it challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter because of the non-compliance by the applicant with the provisions of Orders 2 rule 1(4) and Order 1 rule 2(3) of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979.

But counsel to the applicant “urged the court to hold that the application is properly before the court, and that where there is a right, there is a remedy”, relying on the case of Omoyinwa Vs Ogubiju (2003).
Idris in his ruling had held that “the applicant’s application is properly before this court…the objection taken by the 1st respondent has no merit and it is accordingly dismissed. No order as to cost.”

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