A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday set Feb. 28 for the hearing of a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
After counsel for the Department of State Services (DSS), Idowu Awo, informed the court that his clients had a counter affidavit that had not been served on Kanu, Justice Taiwo Taiwo set the date.
At the rescheduled hearing, Awo asked the court for extra time to serve the application on Kanu’s attorney, Maxwell Opara.
However, Opara portrayed the DSS lawyer’s proposal as a ploy to keep his client in solitary confinement and other inhumane practices.
He claimed that the DSS’s counter-affidavit was already submitted late.
Despite the fact that the application was dated January 28 and that the DSS’s counsel had his contact information, he claims it was not served on him until now.
Simon Enock, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s (AGF) lawyer, also told that he had filed an application for a time extension to regularize their counter affidavit.
Neither the IPOB leader’s lawyer, Opara, nor the DSS lawyer objected to the application.
The matter was adjourned until Feb. 28 by Justice Taiwo, who observed that it was coming before him for the first time.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Kanu sued the Director-General of the DSS and the office as first and second respondents in the FHC/ABJ/CS/1585/2021 action, which he filed through his lawyer, Opara.
He also joined the AGF as a third respondent in the Dec. 13, 2021 lawsuit.
In the originating motion, his lawyer asked the court to declare that the respondents must abide by the provisions of Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, as far as citizens of Nigeria’s rights are concerned, while carrying out their lawful duties.
Opara also requested the court to rule that Kanu, although being a detainee, was entitled to his constitutional rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
He sought: “A DECLARATION that the applicant, even though a detainee, is entitled to the enjoyment of his right to dignity of human person as guaranteed under Sections 34(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“A DECLARATION that the respondents action in continuing to keep the applicant in their detention facility, without transferring him to Kuje Correctional Centre, is subjecting the applicant to mental torture given that it is not the place designated for keeping awaiting trial inmates,” among others.
The lawyers then urged the court to issue an order requiring the respondents to provide Kanu with immediate access to facilities and materials for the practice of his religion, as well as to release him from solitary confinement.
However, the DSS disputed with Kanu in a counter affidavit deposed to by Hamza Pandogari, which was dated and submitted on Jan. 28.
Kanu was apprehended by personnel of the first and second respondents on reasonable suspicion of treason and terrorism by spreading violence against Nigerians under the pretense of succession, according to Pandogari.
Kanu, according to the officer, is the leader of the IPOB, a banned organization.
He stated that he was currently on trial before Justice Binta Nyako on a 15-count accusation.
Nyako had already admitted Kanu to bail in April 2017, but he jumped bail and was re-arrested to continue his trial, according to Pandogari.
“There is no such order of court that applicant should have unrestricted access to the medial practitioner of his choice while in 1st and 2nd respondent’s custody.” the officer added, contradicting Kanu’s affidavit’s paragraphs 4 (a) and (b).
He further stated that, contrary to popular belief, Kanu was receiving enough and high-quality medical care as needed.
“The applicant enjoys direct and unrestricted access to medical practitioners who are experts in their various field of medical practice.
Dr. O. FASAN, a Consultant Cardiologist from the National Hospital in Abuja; Dr. A. OHUNMWANGHO, a Consultant Gastroenterologist from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital; and Prof. MBAKWE, Consultant CARDIOLOGIST from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital were among the experts who had been attending to Kanu’s health, according to him.
“That apart from the regular routine medical checkup, applicant gets promptly the required medical attention, upon any request or complaint by applicant relating to his health,” he said.
The officer claims that the petitioner (Kanu) has never missed a hearing due to illness.
He claimed that, contrary to reports, Kanu was never mistreated physically or emotionally while in DSS custody.
“That while in custody, applicant enjoys several privileges including but not limited to entertaining a total number of six visitors of his choice every week, three each on Monday and Thursday, the days set out by the court as applicant’s visiting days” he added.
“Also in a counter affidavit deposed to by Zekeri Friday, the AGF said he did not violate or infringe on any fundamental right (s) of the applicant on account of the facts giving rise to the application as deposed to in the whole paragraphs of the affidavit in support of the application.”
Friday, who claimed Kanu was not qualified to assess the competency of the medical practitioner caring for him in DSS custody, said the security agency “has a medical clinic well-equipped with highly trained medical personnel that have been attending to the applicant’s medical needs while he remains in custody.”
He also disputed Kanu’s detention in solitary prison.
He is being held in a standard and sanitary institution, according to Friday.