Illegal Detention: Onumah Seeks N150m Damages From DSS

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A journalist and rights activist, Mr. Chido Onumah, yesterday demanded N150 million compensation from the Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged illegal detention.

In a suit number; FHC/ABJ/CS/1270/2019, filed by his lawyer, Moses Ideh, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Onumah also sought; “the enforcement of his fundamental human rights to dignity of his person, right to personal liberty, freedom of expression and right to own personal property brought pursuant to Section 34, 35, 39, 41 and 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while Onumah was the applicant, Mr. Yusuf Bichi, the Director-General of DSS, was the 1st respondent and the DSS as an agency was the 2nd respondent in the case.

NAN reports that Onumah was said to have been arrested recently by the DSS operatives at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, and detained for several hours for wearing a T-Shirt with the inscription: “We Are All Biafrans.”

The inscription on the shirt was the exact title of a book Onumah authored three years ago.

However, the DSS said it did not arrest him, saying the activist “was rather engaged in an interaction during which an act of his capable of undermining public order and national security was explained to him.”

In the suit, Onumah, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, said his arrest and detention on September 29 at about 5p.m. to 10.30p.m. by the security agency without lawful cause and without court order constituted a violation of his fundamental human rights to dignity of his person, personal liberty, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.

He therefore demanded a compensatory damage of N100 million for the violation of his fundamental human rights and exemplary damages of N50 million for setback, trauma, psychological and emotional distress experienced and still being experienced.

Other requests made by the applicant include; “A declaration that the unlawful seizure of the applicant’s T-Shirt and coercion to write an undertaking never to wear the said T-Shirt again by officials and/or agents of the respondents amount to a violation of his right to own property and his right to freedom of expression as contained in Section 39 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“A declaration that the mental and physical trauma, which the applicant had to endure during the period of time he was held in detention by officials and/or agents of the respondents constitutes a violation of his right to dignity of his person as provided in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. (NAN)

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