Sixty-six convicted soldiers have filed a suit at a Federal High Court, Lagos challenging their continued detention in the custody of the Ikoyi and Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centres, Lagos.
They are asking the court for an order directing the respondents, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Comptroller, Nigeria Correctional Services, Lagos to pay them a cumulative sum of N1.320 billion for violation of their fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom from discrimination of their persons.
In the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by their counsel, Mrs Funmi Falana, the applicants are asking the court for a declaration that their continued detention at the correctional centres, despite the amnesty granted them by President Muhammadu Buhari since April 9, 2020, is illegal and unconstitutional and violates their rights to personal liberty guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
They are therefore seeking a declaration that their continued detention at the custody the correctional centre, in Ikoyi and Apapa also violates their right to freedom from discrimination guaranteed by Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and Articles 2 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Other reliefs sought by the applicants are for an order directing the respondents to release them from the custody of Ikoyi and Kirikiri Correctional Centres, forthwith in compliance with the Presidential Amnesty granted on April 9, 2020, by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to Prerogative of Mercy under Section 175 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended).
They also asked the court for an order directing the respondents to pay to the applicants a total sum of N20 million each being compensation for the violation of their Fundamental Rights to Personal Liberty and Freedom from Discrimination of their persons.
The applicants based their request for reliefs on nine grounds.
They contended that the refusal of the respondents to permit the immediate release the applicants based on the Presidential Amnesty granted recently by President Buhari pursuant to Prerogative of Mercy under Section 175 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and the continued detention of the Applicants is illegal and unconstitutional as they violate the Applicants’ right to their Personal Liberty guaranteed by section 35 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Act.
They also contended that the refusal of the respondents to release the applicants along with the 2,600 who met the terms of the Presidential Amnesty granted recently by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to Prerogative of Mercy under Section 175 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) along is discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional as it violates the Applicants’ right to Freedom from Discrimination and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights Act.
They argued that the respondents ought to release the applicants from prison custody forthwith in accordance with the terms of the aforesaid Presidential amnesty.
They further argued that having been in custody for 67 months out of the prison term of 80 months, they have spent more than 75% of their 10-year imprisonment.
Alternatively, they said since they are due to be released next year, they have less than three years to complete their 10-year term of imprisonment.
They are therefore qualified for the Presidential amnesty having served a substantial term of their sentence.
They said one of the convicted soldiers; Cpl. Stephen Clement was released from prison custody on April 28, 2020 on the ground that he had spent more than 75 percent of his 10-year prison term in line with the terms of the Presidential Amnesty of April 9, 2020.
In the affidavit in support of their application, they averred that they were charged and tried alongside other eleven soldiers before a General Court-Martial on a six-count charge of committing mutiny, criminal conspiracy to commit mutiny, attempted murder, disobedience to particular orders, insubordinate behaviour and false accusation contrary to and punishable under the Armed Force Act (Cap A20) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
They said at the end of the trial, they were convicted and sentenced to death in a judgment delivered sometime in September 2014.
They averred that following a review of their case, the confirming authority upheld the conviction but commuted the death sentence to 10 years imprisonment. Since the Applicants are entitled to remission of the 10-year jail term, they are required to spend a total of 80 months in prison custody. From September 2014 to June 2020, they have spent over 67 months in custody.
They averred that in exercise of the powers of Prerogative of Mercy under Section 175 of the Constitution, President Buhari granted amnesty to certain categories of convicted inmates including those who have spent 75 percent of their sentence after remission as well as inmates who have less than three years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract five years and above.
They claimed that having been in custody for 67 months out of the prison term of 80 months, they have spent more than 75 per cent of their 10-year imprisonment and that they have less than three years to complete their 10-year term of imprisonment as they are due to be released from custody next year.
They averred that the respondents have refused or failed to permit the immediate release of the applicants in accordance with the terms of the aforesaid presidential amnesty.
They claimed that the respondents have released one Cpl. Stephen Clement whose prison term was also commuted to 10 years imprisonment on the grounds that he met the terms of the presidential amnesty.
They further claimed that the respondents have released 2,600 convicts who met the conditions set out in the presidential amnesty but have refused to release the applicants from custody without adducing any reason.
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