A Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra against the Department of State Services (DSS).
The trial judge, Justice James Omotosho, in his judgment held that Kanu’s suit lacked merit and ought to be dismissed.
The IPBO leader in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/482/2022 and filed by his counsel, sued the Director- General of DSS, the DSS, and the Attorney-General of the Federation as first to third respondents respectively. In the suit, the IPOB leader alleged that the DSS subjected him to different inhuman treatments, including denying him his right to wear any clothes of his choice like the Igbo traditional attire called Isi-Agu while in their facility or any time he appeared in court for his trial.
Kanu also accused the DSS of subjecting him to torture, breaching his right to dignity, among others. He, therefore, sought an order directing the respondents to allow him put on any clothe of his choice while in the facility or when appearing in public, among other reliefs.
But in a counter affidavit filed by the DSS and its DG, they urged the court to dismissed Kanu’s claim. They said that their operatives had did not and had never tortured Kanu either physically or mentally while in their custody.
According to the DSS, the applicant (Kanu) is kept in their facility where every other suspects are kept. They said it was untrue that other suspects were allowed to put on any clothe of their choice, including Hausa and Yoruba traditional wears.
They said that the facility was not a recreational centre or traditional festival where Kanu and other suspects would be allowed to adore themselves in their respective traditional attires. They argued that there is a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) on dress code by persons in their facilities.
“That in line with global best practices, persons in the 1st and 2nd respondents’ facility are allowed to wear only plain clothes which do not bear symbols, writings, colours and insignias that are offensive to any religion, ethnic group or even the Nigeria state in general,” they said.
They accused Kanu’s family of bringing traditional attires and other clothing with Biafra insignias and pair of red shoes decorated with shinning beads for him to wear in custody and also to attend court for his trial.
According to DSS, the clothes have colours of the non-existing Biafra Republic, which is the subject matter of applicant’s criminal trial. They said the Isi-Agu attire, popularly called a chieftaincy attire, was not a suitable dress for persons in detention facility and against its SOP.
They also argued that Justice Binta Nyako, where Kanu is currently standing trial, had directed that Kanu should be allowed to wear any plain clothe of his choice and that any thing contrary would contravene the court’s directive.
The DSS said they never breached his right to human dignity as alleged by the IPOB leader. Delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho held that right to human dignity is contained in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said it was clear that a right to human dignity related to right against torture, inhuman treatment, among others. The judge held that Kanu’s case did not relate to toture or forced labour as he was never tortured while in custody based on the evidence before the court.
He said a right to dignity was not a right to change clothes as inmate in a prison.
“The applicant cannot come to court to seek for rights which are not in the constitution,” he said. Besides, Justice Omotosho held that Kanu failed to provide the photographs and names of inmates who were allowed to wear different attires while in custody.
He said the onus was on him to prove his case but the applicant merely rely on bare facts without any evidence. He described the IPOB leader’s allegations as “an hypothesis without concrete evidence.”
The judge, consequently, dismissed the case for lacking in merit. NAN reports that a retired judge of the court, Justice Taiwo, had dismissed a similar suit brought by Kanu in 2022.
In the judgment Justice Taiwo held that Kanu had not provided sufficient evidence that his fundamental rights were infringed upon by the security outfit “as there is no proof of torture before the court.”
On Kanu’s right to practise his religion, the judge said that while the applicant (Kanu) had the constitutional right to practice his religion in custody, he agreed with the position of the respondent (DSS) that a suspect in custody cannot be allowed to practise his religion in such a way that would disturb the peace of other suspects in custody.
The judge held that Kanu’s case did not relate to torture or forced labour as he was never tortured while in custody based on the evidence before the court. “The applicant cannot come to court to seek rights which are not in the Constitution,” he said. Besides, the judge held that Kanu failed to provide photographs and names of inmates who were allowed to wear different attires while in custody, describing the IPOB leader’s allegations as “a hypothesis without concrete evidence,” and dismissed the case for lacking merit.