A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fined the Department of State Services N5m for the unlawful arrest and detention of an Abuja-based commercial driver, Sanusi Shuaib.
The court also ordered the DSS to immediately release the driver who had been in detention since March 2023.
The detained driver had through his lawyer, Bala Dakum, dragged the DSS before the court to challenge his detention without trial since his arrest.
Dakum alleged that upon his client’s arrest, the DSS accused him of possessing firearms for alleged terrorists and has been in DSS custody ever since.
The lawyer, however, prayed for his release and N50 million compensation for the unlawful detention.
Delivering judgment on the matter on Thursday, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon held that the DSS flagrantly flouted Section 35 of the country’s constitution which prohibited detention of any Nigerian beyond a maximum period of 48 hours without an order of the court.
Olajuwon said the DSS on March 29, 2023, got an order from the Federal High Court to hold and detain the driver for only 20 days to investigate and charge him to court if indicted for any criminal matters.
She noted that the DSS did not apply to the court for an extension of the 20 days detention period and also did not charge him to court for any offence.
Olajuwon said any detention outside the 20 days was unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, and null and void.
She noted that the fundamental rights of the applicant to freedom of movement had been breached by the DSS.
The judge faulted the claim of the DSS that it was granted six months to detain the driver, adding that what the court granted was just 20 days.
Justice Olajuwon also disagreed with the DSS that the detainee had been moved to the Military detention facility in Niger State for trial in terrorism offences, adding that there was no evidence to that effect placed before the court.
The judge also faulted the claim of the security agency that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice approved the trial of the driver.
Justice Olajuwon who quoted the letter of the AGF said that the AGF office only recommended that a fresh investigation be conducted into the allegations against the driver which was never done.
The judge then annulled the driver’s detention and mandated his prompt release from DSS custody.