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Court declares DSS arrest of Ekiti lawmaker illegal, awards Akanni N5m damages

 

The Federal High Court, sitting in Ado-Ekiti, on Wednesday, ordered the Directorate of State Security Services (DSS) to compensate Hon. Afolabi Akanni, member representing Efon Constituency 1 at the Ekiti State House of Assembly, a sum of N5 million for what it called, “illegal arrest and continued detention for 18 days without trial”.

Akanni had on March 4 whisked away by the DSS and detained for 18 days at the Abuja Headquarter of the DSS, but released shortly after a dramatic death rumour by Ekiti state government.

The DSS, while parading Akanni the second day had debunked the death rumour by the state government and added that he was being held for alleged breaches to some security regulation

In his ruling, Justice Taiwo Taiwo noted that the respondent, DSS, had all along failed to either deny or defend the position, facts and allegations of the applicant, adding that in the eyes of the law: “There is no basis for the court to believe that all that the applicant had alleged against the DSS were not true”, adding that Akanni’s fundamental rights as a citizen of Nigeria, as specified by the principles of the Rule of Law and the African Charter on the Rights of individuals, had been violated by the DSS by illegally arresting and continually detaining him for 18 days without trial”.

The court also granted three out of the four reliefs sought by the applicant’s counsel. The three reliefs granted according to the Justice Taiwo include: “whether the applicant’s unlawful arrest and detention is justified, whether the said intimidation, torture and continued detention is not a violation of his fundamental human rights and a violation of the Rule of Law, and whether the applicant’s is not entitled to damages.

Counsel to Akanni, Barrister Obafemi Adewale, who appeared for him in Court on Wednesday alongside other members of his legal team, had earlier apologised for his physical absence and explained to the presiding judge, adding that he (Akanni) was still in a hospital outside the state receiving post-traumatic treatment.

Barrister Adewale, however, described the judgement as a courageous demonstration of the willingness and readiness of the judiciary to protect the sanctity of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the citizens of this country, adding that: “This is not about Afolabi Akanni, it is not about the Ekiti State House of Assembly, and it is not about Governor Fayose, it is about the ordinary man on the streets who has this right but who is now facing an apparent trend all over the federation of a gradual return to the days of impunity when security agencies trudge relentlessly on the rights of the citizens of this country under various guises.

“The people working in security have their limits as specified by the Laws that created them but most of them operate as if they are above the law. What the court has done today is to again re-emphasise that we have a constitution in Nigeria which is supreme to every other organs of government and which guides every of our conduct, including the President of the country.

“It is not even about the N5 million awarded for damages as the court has stated that when you do what the DSS has done to Akanni, the fine must be paid. Within the parameters of the law, we will ensure that the money is paid by the Respondent.”

Meanwhile, the  Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Kola Oluwawole, said the judgement has vindicated the House’s position that DSS’ alleged invasion, arrest and detention of its members were illegal and against the democratic principles of the country.

His words: “The judgement is a vindication of our stand that what the DSS’ invasion of the state House on March 4 was an aberration. We cried to the world over this. The opponents were giving excuses and the DSS were not even helping the matter, but the judgement has shown that the DSS’ action was illegal.”

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