One of the suspects in the 2010 Independence Day bomb blasts in Abuja, Charles Okah, has embarked on a hunger strike to protest alleged harassment by officials of the Kuje Prison.
Apart from embarking on hunger strike, Mr. Okah, who has been in Kuje Prison since 2010, has threatened to file a suit demanding N5 billion damages from the Federal Government.
The threat is contained in a letter written by his counsel, Timi Okponipere, dated January 21, and addressed to the Minister of Interior, Abdulraman Dambazau.
The legal practitioner alleged that the officer in charge of the Kuje Prison, Musa Tanko, has persistently harassed and intimidated his client.
“At the time of writing this letter, our client is as emaciated as a bean pole on account of the hunger strike he has embarked upon, to draw global attention to his plight,” the lawyer wrote.
“Literarily and figuratively speaking, our client is virtually a dead man. If our client dies in prison custody, the entire world, particularly the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta where our client hails from, shall rise in unison against President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, even as we concede the fact that, our client’s ordeal began during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan, a fellow Ijaw.”
Mr. Okponipere said some prison officials on January 6, at about 7am, gained entry into Mr. Okah’s cell and carted away his books, journals and manuscripts.
He said the invasion of his client’s cell was based on the orders of the head of the Kuje Prison, Musa Tanko.
According to him, one of the seized manuscripts contained his prison memoirs, consisting of writings, drawings and sketches of his prison journey.
However, he said another manuscript titled “Research Study: Security Lapses and Vice in Kuje Prison,” carried detailed report exposing security lapses, illicit sex, indiscipline, corruption and other vices thriving such as prison warders’ involvement in drug trafficking.
“Our client was to submit the report to the honourable minister of interior, the national security adviser, NSA, as well as the director general of the State Security Service, SSS, before the unfortunate incident occurred,” the lawyer wrote.
“Specifically, on January 10, when the honourable minister of interior visited the prison, in company of the director general, State Security Service, SSS, our client approached the minister and conveyed his intention to forward a draft copy of the research study to his (minister) office for necessary action.
“Secondly Sir, following our client’s bold initiative to approach the minister of interior during his visit to the prison, our client has been kept in solitary confinement within the Prison Service since January 10, 2016 by Mr. Tanko and his officers, ostensibly as a punitive, vindictive and malicious measure, to force our client to back down from his avowed determination to expose the ongoing rot in the prison.”
The lawyer insisted that the Kuje Prison boss lacks the power to subject an inmate under his custody to another form of imprisonment without a valid order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
He said that keeping Mr. Okah in solitary confinement is arbitrary, illegal and an arrogant usurpation of the judicial function which must be discouraged by the federal government.
He said the rights of prisoners are guaranteed by both the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Mr. Okponipere also accused the prison authority of refusing to convey his client to the National Hospital, Abuja, to keep a long gone surgery appointment to address a terminal condition.
The lawyer, therefore, called for an immediate and unconditional return of all the intellectual properties seized from his client and a discontinuance of solitary confinement.
Mr. Okponipere also seeks an immediate conveyance of Mr. Okah to the National Hospital Abuja to keep a major surgery appointment with his doctors.
“Take notice and notice is hereby given that we shall commence an action to enforce our client’s fundamental right at the Federal High Court, Abuja if the afore-mentioned demands are not made within 14 days of receipt of this letter.
“Take further notice that upon filing the suit, our client shall demand the sum of five billion naira in punitive, exemplary and aggravated damages from the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The letter was copied to President Muhamadu Buhari, the executive secretary, National Human Rights Commission, African Commission on Human and Peoples Right, European Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross.