Unlawful detention: Court orders SSS to apologise to El-Rufai, pay him N2m in damages

The Federal High Court on Monday ordered the State Security Service to apologise to a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir El-Rufai, and to pay him N2 million in damages for unlawful detention.

This follows the events of November 15 and 16 2013, during the last Anambra governorship elections, when SSS officials detained and harassed Mr. El-Rufai at the Finotel in Awka.

Dissatisfied with his treatment, and believing that the conduct of the SSS had no basis in law, Mr. El-Rufai approached the court for redress.

The case was listed as FHC/AWK/CS/310/13, with the SSS and the Attorney-General of the Federation as respondents.

Delivering judgment in Awka on Monday, Justice Ibrahim Bature Gafai held that the SSS has no statutory powers under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or under any Nigerian law to detain Mr. El-Rufai without showing cause to a court of competent jurisdiction.

The court therefore ordered the SSS to publish an apology in two national dailies for the unlawful and unconstitutional violation of his liberty.

In addition to the apology and monetary damages, the court also made significant pronouncements regarding the restriction of movement during elections.

The court declared that the Respondents have no powers under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or under any Nigerian law to either impose a general restriction on movement or restrict the applicant’s constitutional right of freedom of movement as enshrined in Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 on account of the Anambra State Gubernatorial election that took place on the 16th day of November, 2013 or any other election.

This decision has massive implications for the way government agencies routinely attempt to restrict movement of persons, especially during elections.

The court also granted other prayers sought by Mr. El-Rufai, including:

i. A DECLARATION that the detention of the Applicant, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, OFR, without charge, at the premises of Finotel Hotel, Akwa, Anambra State, between the 15th day of November, 2013 and 16th day of November, 2013, by agents of the 1st Respondent, (SSS) or officers, servants, privies of the Respondents and/or of the Federal Government of Nigeria, constitute a gross violation of the Applicant right to personal liberty and freedom of movement respectively guaranteed under sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Articles 6 and 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and is therefore unconstitutional and illegal.

ii. A DECLARATION that the unlawful deprivation of the Applicant, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, OFR, from granting/continued granting of interview with an AIT Correspondence, Mr. Obiorah Iloh and other mass media representatives within the premises of Finotel Hotel, Akwa, Anambra State, at about 2pm of 16th day of November, 2013 by agents of the 1st Respondent, (SSS) or officers, servants, privies of the Respondents and/or of the Federal Government of Nigeria, constitute a gross violation of the Applicant’s freedom of expression guaranteed under section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and is accordingly unlawful unconstitutional and illegal.

iii. A DECLARATION that the detention of the Applicant at the premises of Finotel Hotel, Akwa, Anambra State, without charge, on the 15th day of November, 2013 to the 16th day of November, 2013, by agents of the 1st Respondent, (SSS) or officers, servants, agents, privies of the Respondents and/or of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a view to denying the Applicant, Deputy National Secretary and Member/Secretary Electoral Committee, of All Progressives Congress Anambra Governorship Election, 2013, freedom to associates with fellow members of the said All Progressives Congress, at Akwa, Anambra State, is a violation of the Applicant’s Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association guaranteed under section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Articles 10(1) and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and is accordingly unconstitutional and illegal.

iv. A DECLARATION that the restriction and prevention of the Applicant from moving out of his room in Finotel Hotel wherein he lodged at Awka in Anambra State to monitor the 16th November, 2013 Anambra State Gubernatorial Election by the Agents of the Respondents, Officers, Servants, Agents or Privies constitutes a gross violation of the Applicant’s constitutional right of freedom of movement as enshrined in section 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

v. A DECLARATION that the restriction and prevention of the Applicant from moving out of his room in Finotel Hotel wherein he lodged at Awka in Anambra State to observe congregation prayers (salat) on the 16th November, 2013 by the Agents of the Respondents, Officers, Servants, Agents or Privies constitutes a gross violation of the Applicant’s constitutional right of freedom of Religion as enshrined in section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

vi. A DECLARATION that the Respondents have no powers under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) or under any Nigerian Law to either impose a general restriction on movement or restrict the Applicant’s constitutional right of freedom of movement as enshrined in Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) on account of the Anambra State Gubernatorial election that took place on the 16th day of November, 2013 or any other election.

vii. A DECLARATION that the 1st Respondent has no statutory powers under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) or under any Nigerian Law to detain the Applicant without showing cause to a Court of competent jurisdiction.

viii. AN INJUNCTION restraining the Respondents, whether by themselves or by their officers, agents, servants, privies, or otherwise howsoever from further detaining or in any other manner infringing on the fundamental rights of the Applicant.

ix. AN ORDER for the award of compensation/damages to the Applicant, in the sum of N2,000,000.00 (Two Million Naira only) for the unlawful and unconstitutional detention/violation of his right to personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of association and expression.

x. AN ORDER directing the Respondents to publish apologies to the Applicant in two (2) National Dailies, for the unlawful and unconstitutional detention/violation of his right to personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of association and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Articles 6, 9(2), 10(1), 11 and 12(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.


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