The two sons of late winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola arrested and detained in connection with the September 2, 2020 robbery incident in their father’s Lagos residence, may have to stay longer in police detention as an exparte motion and an affidavit of urgency filed by their counsel before the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja Judicial Division, wherein they prayed the court to hear their case within the ongoing vacation period, has suffered a setback. Kassim and Aliyu were arrested and detained by men of the State Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS) following a complaint that was lodged by their step-mother, Adebisi Abiola, accusing them of complicity in the robbery.
The duo had also approached the court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. When the case came up on Friday, Justice Abiola Soladoye, a vacation Judge, adjourned the matter to October 15, 2020 and directed that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police who is the sole Defendant in the matter be put on notice about the suit. Soladoye consequently ordered that the file be returned to the Assistant Chief Registrar for a re-assignment to a non-vacation Judge, for hearing.
Messrs Chimaobi Onuigbo and Ejieke Onuoha, who held the brief of Mike Ozekhome, a human right activist and senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, had passionately prayed the court to grant bail to the detainees due to their poor health and lengthy detention period in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS dungeon since September 2, 2020. The detainees, who applied for the enforcement of their rights to personal liberty, dignity of person, right to private and family life, as well as right to freedom of movement, told the court that they were unlawfully arrested and detained at the SARS cell after the robbery incident.
Apart from demanding for an apology, the Applicants are also demanding among others, N100 million from the Police as exemplary damages for the “wanton and grave violation” of their fundamental rights.
In the court processes filed by counsel to the Abiola brothers, the court was told that they were discriminatorily singled out in the premises they share with many other persons as a result of a complaint by their step-mother after the robbery. The court was further informed that though the Police had since conducted several searches at their apartments, nothing incriminating or connecting them with any alleged stolen item belonging to their step-mother was found.
Insisting that they were illegally arrested without warrant, the applicants maintained that the Police lacked the constitutional right to keep them in custody for more than 24 hours without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
In a 21-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Ubong Ikon, a Litigation Clerk in Ozekhome’s Chamber, the applicants alleged that the Police officers forcibly broke into their homes and arrested them with seven other people. They detailed how they were “tortured, totally humiliated, dehumanized and terrorized, with a crowd of people swarming the premises to witness the ugly scene” in the home of their late father. They said they were informed that their arrest was as a result of a complaint by their step-mother to the effect that a robbery incident took place in their home during which valuables and money were carted away.
Ikon further deposed that the applicants were “thereafter roughly man-handled and bundled into the operatives’ vehicle and sandwiched between fully armed operatives of the Respondent, while one of them drove them like convicted criminals to the office of the Respondent”. They described the suspicion of their alleged involvement in the robbery as “completely false and malicious in its entirety”. They said the allegation was “meant to disparage their persons and their immediate nuclear family, not being biological children of the Complainant”.
The applicants who were also students about to travel abroad to the United States of America for further studies, insisted “That their being singled out for continuous detention and torment is simply because they are not the biological children of the Complainant, Mrs. Adebisi Abiola, as her own children and aides staying in the same premises were left untouched.
“That the Applicants are in a very pitiable condition of mental agony and psychological depression, having not been in such an environment before and especially as they insist they are innocent of culpability in the alleged robbery”.
According to the deponent, “The Applicants are ready and willing to stand trial if and whenever they are arraigned for any offence since investigation has long been concluded by the Respondent’s operatives, but are merely being subjected to ridicule, harassment, degrading treatment and torture”.
They therefore specifically prayed the court to declare that their arrest without warrant, and without granting them administrative bail within 24 hours of their arrest, as well as subsequent and continuous dehumanization and detention since September 2, 2020, by the police on the alleged complaint by their step-mother, was “illegal, unlawful, wrongful and constitutes a blatant violation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered.
They also sought the court’s declaration that they are entitled to public apology and adequate compensation from the police as provided for by section 35(6) and 46(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered, Sections 2, 3(1) (2), 17(1) (2), 18 (1) (2) (3), 19, 21 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, Lagos State, 2015, “for the blatant violation of the Applicants’ fundamental rights without following the due process of law”.
Besides seeking “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondent whether by itself, its agents, employees, operatives, detectives, investigating officer(s), or by whatever name called, from further inviting, arresting or detaining the Applicants on the facts of an alleged Petition/Complaint made by one Mrs. Adebisi Abiola, in relation to a purported or alleged robbery incident to which they know absolutely nothing about,” the deponent also prayed the court most importantly, for an order of the court directing the Respondent and his operatives and agents “to release forthwith the Applicants from the detention of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, detention centre of the Respondent”.