Court declares detention, deportation of Cameroonian refugees illegal

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has declared illegal the arrest and detention of 12 persons (Mr Sisiku Ayuk Tabe & 11 others) by the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno.

Justice Anwuli Chikere awarded N5m as damages to each of them.

The court also declared as unconstitutional the deportations of the 12 detainees and another 35 others from Nigeria to Cameroon on January 26, 2019.

In arriving at these decisions, the judge agreed with the submission of their counsel, Snr Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana that the applicants were expelled from Nigeria in utter violation of the legal obligations under the National Refugee Commission Act, section 35 of the Constitution and article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which prohibits Nigeria from expelling or deporting refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria.

Justice Chikere also awarded N200,000 to each of the applicants and ordered the federal government to ensure that they are brought back to Nigeria forthwith.

The court granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Security Adviser from further violating the fundamental rights of the Applicants in any manner whatsoever and howsoever upon return to Nigeria.

The 12 Applicants, MR SISIKU AYUK TABE & 11 Others were arrested in Abuja on January 9, 2018, on the instruction of the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno.
They were detained in an underground cell at the headquarters of the Directorate Intelligence Agency, Abuja.

In a suit filed on their behalf by Mr Femi Falana, the applicants asked the court to declare that their arrest without a warrant unconstitutional and contrary to section 34 & 35 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and article 5 & 6 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act.)

They also asked Justice Chikere to make a declaration that their detention in an underground prison was a violation of their right to personal liberty.

They ­urged the court to order their immediate release and compel the NSA to pay them the sum of N200m each as compensation for the damage and hardship which they say they suffered.

The NSA did not file a counter affidavit, instead, the counsel, Mr D. Suleiman raised a preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain this matter.

The counsel also contended that the case did not fall within Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution and as such the suit filed by the 12 persons could not be commenced by filing a Fundamental Human Right Enforcement proceeding.

Mr Suleiman then urged the Court to dismiss the case. Mr Falana however countered by arguing that the arrest and detention of the applicants who are refugees and asylum seekers constituted a breach of section 35 of the Constitution and article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

Justice Chikere, however, dismissed the preliminary objection for lack of merit.

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