The Nigerian Army on Sunday released 249 detainees arrested at different times on suspicion that they were members of the extremist Boko Haram sect.
The detainees, including 34 children and 46 women, were handed over to the Borno State government at a brief ceremony in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, with the army saying they had been found innocent of the crimes for which they were held.
But there was no apology or compensation from the military or the Nigerian government to the detained persons for the pains and trauma they suffered during their incarceration.
The only compensation the suspects got was N3,000 each, which was handed them by officials of the Borno State government to transport themselves back to their homes.
Nigerian security agencies regularly engage in mass arrests of suspects, labelling them Boko Haram terrorists, and then detaining them for months, and even years.
But, in what is clearly a violation of Nigerian laws, no formal apology or compensation is ever given by the Nigerian state or its military to those so illegally detained.
About eight months ago, 182 such suspects were released (40 boys, 24 women, 100 adults and 18 children).
In February 2016, another set of 275 persons, including underaged children, were set free after prolonged detention. They comprised 142 males and 49 females.
In November 2014, the Nigerian Army released yet another batch of 125 detainees who were found not to be related to Boko Haram in any form.
They were set free shortly after another group of 42 were released after months in detention.
Human Rights Lawyer, Festus Okoye, said the military and the Nigerian government were in severe breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act 2013 by illegally detaining people for weeks, months or years, and then releasing them without public apology or compensation.
Section 35 (Subsection 6) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “Any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authorities and persons.”
On its part, Section 28 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act says, “Where a person is arrested under reasonable suspicion of having committed any offence under this Act, the relevant law enforcement or security officer may direct that the person arrested be detained in custody for a period not exceeding forty-eight hours from his arrest …”
On November 18, 2015, the Army announced that its Joint Investigation Committee had cleared one Abubakar Sadiq, a Maiduguri resident who was erroneously arrested a month before then on suspicion he was one of the 100 Boko Haram terrorists wanted by the authorities..
The army had announced the arrest of Mr. Sadiq, a security guard at the residence of Mohammed Daggash in the Borno State capital, saying he was suspect number 28 on its wanted Boko Haram terrorists lists.
“However, a thorough investigation carried out, as well as new Boko Haram terrorists video clip acquired and the employment of forensic analysis, the committee conclusively confirmed that it was a case of mistaken identity,” the spokesperson for the army, Sani Usman, said on November 18, 2015.
“The erroneously arrested person has since been released to his family.
“The investigation further showed that the Daggash family have nothing to do with the incident or associated with any security breach in Borno State.”
The statement did not contain any apology to Mr. Sadiq, who the army widely advertised as a wanted terrorist and detained for one month.
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