An Asaba division of the Federal High Court has awarded N10m in damages against the Department of State Services (DSS), for detaining a trader, Anthony Okolie, for 10 weeks without charge.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who delivered his judgment on Thursday, however struck out the prayer requesting President Muhammadu Buhar’s daughter, Hanan, and telecoms company, MTN, to pay N500m.
The trader had sued Hanan Buhari, the DSS and MTN over his 10-week detention following the purchase of a SIM card which was later discovered to have been previously used or owned by Hanan.
A suit was however filed on his behalf by a human rights lawyer, who is also the National President of Revolutionary Lawyer’s Forum, Tope Akinyode, the applicant sued all parties for N500m jointly and separately.
The suit, with number FHC/ASB/CS/3/2020, sought an order to “compel the respondents (DSS, Hanan and MTN) jointly or severally to pay the applicant the sum of N500, 000, 000 only as general and aggravated damages for the gross and unlawful violation of the applicant’s right to acquire moveable properties, freedom of movement and self dignity.”
In a supporting affidavit, the 33-year-old man stated that he was arrested on July 19, 2019 in Asaba, Delta State for using a telephone line that was previously owned by Hanan.
Adding that he remained in custody, bound by handcuffs till September 22, 2019 as the DSS waited for Hanan, who was schooling in the United Kingdom, to come and clear him but she never did.
Okolie also attached the receipt he was issued after purchasing the SIM card as well as the SIM certificate.
Akinyode, during the hearing asked Justice Dimgba to determine if Okolie’s rights had been breached and if the DSS had the right to detain a private citizen for 10 weeks without charge.
But Hanan, through her lawyer, M.E Sheriff, asked the court not to grant Okolie’s reliefs, insisting that she had never met the applicant before and he should instead channel his grievances towards the DSS that detained him.
The DSS lawyer E.E Daubry, in a counter-affidavit said the Presidency ordered the investigation of Okolie, adding that the sensitivity of the case was what led to Okolie’s prolonged detention.
Daubry said the agency decided to detain Okolie without a court order because of the sensitivity of the case.
DSS accused Okolie of using Hanan’s SIM card to solicit money from unsuspecting members of the public, an allegation the applicant denied.