A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Wednesday slammed N50million damages against the State Security Service (SSS) and its Director General for unlawfully detaining a man, Henry Parker Chime, for over five years.
Justice Emeka Nwite awarded the sum as general and exemplary damages in favour of the applicant in a judgment on a fundamental rights enforcement suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/215/2019 filed by Chime.
Justice Nwite described the conduct of the SSS and its DG as reprehensible, noting that the detention of the applicant from February 15, 2013 to August 22, 2018 under harsh condition and without a valid court order was a blatant abuse of powers and a grave violation of Chime’s fundamental rights.
The judge, who found unbelievable the claim by the SSS and its DG that they had no information of Chime’s detention in their record of lawfully detained individuals, held that the applicant’s name could not have been in their record book, if such record actually exist, because he was unlawfully detained.
Justice Nwite agreed with the applicant’s lawyer, Egbe Okara that, if actually the SSS and its DG have records of detainees, they deliberately failed to produce it in court because they knew it would contradict their claims.
The judge also awarded N50, 000 cost against the SSS and its DS in favour of the applicant on the grounds that his suit was meritorious.
He declared as illegal and a fragrant violation of the applicant’s rights, including the right to go to court, the threat by the SSS and its DG of further arrest should he (Chime) sue or disclose his arrest and detention to anyone.
Justice Nwite issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the SSS and its DG from further arresting or threatening to arrest the applicant.
The judge struck out the name of the Attorney General of the Federation (sued as the third defendant) from the suit on the grounds that the applicant made out no cause against the AGF.
Chime, in an affidavit supporting his application, stated that before his arrest, he worked in with an information communication technology (ICT) firm – West Digital Ltd, with Mr. Afolabi Kilaso as the Managing Director (MD).
He said the firm had a contract as IT Consultant with the Presidential Pension Reform Task Force, headed then by Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina.
Chime said he had a disagreement with his firm’s MD and left the company, but was later arrested by men of the SSS in his home on February 15, 2013 who claimed Kilaso wrote a petition against him.
“During one of the interrogation sessions in 2013, two officers of the SSS, whose names f and faces I did not see because I was blind folded, informed me that it was Mr. Afolabi Kilaso that wrote the petition to them against me.
“The officers told me around June 2013 that I should say the truth of what I know about Abdulrasheed Maina. I told them that I don’t know anything about Maina or pension funds nor did I at any time leaked or publish information about the SSS to anyone.
“After that last interrogation in June, 2013 above, I was dumped into their underground detention facility which they called ALPHA. They chained my two legs anytime I was inside detention cell, leaving my two hands alone.
“Whenever I want to go for either interrogation or see a medical doctor at their Emergency Medical Unit, they will chain both my legs and hands. I was kept incommunicado and locked up in the SSS detention facility from February 15, 2013 till August 22, 2018,” Chime said.