The court ordered the SSS to allow the suspects’ access to their lawyers at all times.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the Department of State Security Service (SSS) to ensure that three Lebanese in its custody have access to their lawyers at all times. The judge will also listen to their bail applications on June 21.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola gave the directive after listening to counsel to the Lebanese, Robert Clarke, who told the court to allow him see his clients at all times.
The SSS detained Mustapha Fawaz, a co-owner of Abuja’s Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park, and two other Lebanese after security officials discovered various arms and ammunition at a Kano building believed to be owned by them a fortnight ago. A second co-owner of the businesses is on the run, security officials said.
The Joint Task Force in Kano had said it, working with the SSS, discovered various weapons, including anti-tank and rocket-propelled grenades within the bunker of the Kano building. The Force also claimed that investigations linked the suspects to the Hezbollah politico-militant group in Lebanon. The SSS, a day after the announcement, sealed of Amigo and Wonderland and kept the arrested Lebanese in detention without trial.
The judge had on Tuesday ordered the SSS, the Inspector-General of police (IG), and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to bring the suspects to court on Thursday after their counsel challenged their arrest, continued detention, and closure of their businesses. The security service complied with the order and produced the three Lebanese men.
Apart from Mustapha Fawaz, the other suspects brought to court are Abdallah Tahini and Tala Roda.
Apart from challenging their detention, and faulting the closure of their business premises by security agents, the suspects also demanded a public apology from the SSS, IG and AGF, to be published in three national dailies. They are also asking for N50 billion as compensation.
At the sitting of the court on Thursday, counsel to the SSS, Cliff Osagie, informed the court that following the order, his client had produced the suspects in court.
“We have complied with the court order My Lord issued on June 11. The suspects are in court and in response, we have filed our counter affidavit in this matter,” he said.
He, however, told the court that he filed the counter affidavit and served the papers on the defendant’s counsel in the court in the morning. He apologised to the court for the late filing of court processes on the defendant’s counsel.
Responding, Mr. Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, told the court that the SSS had complied with the court order of June 11 and produced the suspects in court. He said that the counsel to the SSS served him with a copy of the counter affidavit to their motion in court.
“My Lord, in all my years of practice, I have never seen where counsel will serve court papers in court on the day that the court has fixed a case for hearing.
“It is not a tidy way of practise. We would have agreed to go and overlook this, but the counsel on the other side, in his counter affidavit, mentioned some serious depositions.
“We will, therefore, need time within which to look at it and talk with our clients, ” he said.
Mr. Clarke told the court that he would need a reasonable time to go though the papers served on him and to prepare his reply.
He urged the court to give an order to the SSS to allow the suspects’ access to their lawyers at all times and also urged the court to order for an accelerated hearing in the suit.
Upon listening to both counsels, Justice Ademola ordered that they serve and exchange all court processes before Monday, June 17. He also ordered the SSS, in which custody the suspects have been, to allow them have access to their lawyers at all times.
The judge then adjourned hearing to June 21, in the suspects’ Motion on Notice which was dated June, 3.
The suspects are praying for an interim order granting them bail forthwith conditionally or unconditionally, pending the determination of the substantive Motion on Notice in the matter.
They are also praying for an Interim Order restraining the SSS, IG and AGF from continued arrest, detention, harassment and intimidation of their families, relations and/or business interests, pending the determination of the substantive Motion on Notice in the matter.
The SSS is yet to file formal charges against the suspects.