Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has described as illegal and unconstitutional the continuous detention of a civilian, Emmanuel Odaudu, for over seven months in the Nigerian Military Special Investigation Bureau’s underground cell in Abuja over an old Facebook video.
Falana told newsmen on Wednesday that the Nigerian Army had no constitutional power to detain any person beyond 24 hours, adding that Emmanuel’s indefinite detention was alien to constitutional democracy.
He said, “His (Emmanuel’s) mother has briefed us and we are taking it up, because it is totally unacceptable to detain any Nigerian beyond 24 hours in a place like Abuja without being arraigned in court or without a court order. It is illegal and unconstitutional; the decision of the Nigerian Army to detain Emmanuel Odaudu for seven months without trial smacks of impunity of the highest order.
“Our law firm is taking up this matter and we are going to demonstrate through this case that the Nigerian Army has no power under the law to arrest a civilian without transferring him/her to the police in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“Even when Nigeria was under a military dictatorship, citizens were not detained at the pleasure of the Chief of Army Staff. People were detained then under preventive detention decrees, such as Decree 24 of 1967 and Decree 2 of 1984.
“What the court did then was that whenever the detention of anybody was challenged, the military authorities would have to convince the court that there was strict and scrupulous compliance with the detention order. Even at the risk of our own liberty, human rights lawyers in Nigeria did not allow such naked abuse of power.”
Falana stated that if the Army had evidence that Emmanuel had committed an offence known to law, he should be arraigned before a competent court, adding that subjecting him to an illegal detention without trial was alien to constitutional democracy.
He added, “Whatever he has done, they are allegations that should be submitted before a court of law. No military officer has the power to accuse somebody of committing an offence, try him and jail him.
“In the case of the Military Governor of Lagos State vs. Ojukwu, the Supreme Court nailed the point in the civil case that in any country that operates rule of law, self-help and the rule of force is abandoned.”
It was reported that Emmanuel’s ordeal started when he was in the Army and he posted on social media short videos of himself rapping while in uniform.
The videos, some of which went viral, reportedly infuriated the military authorities, leading to his arrest and detention for three months until he was dismissed.
Emmanuel’s mother, Helen, said her son returned home after his dismissal and was busy with his life when the military tracked him to Otukpo, Benue State, on June 12, 2020, on the allegation that he impersonated the Army in the old videos on social media.
He has been in detention since then.