A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, against the Department of State Services (DSS).
Justice James Omotosho, in a judgment delivered on Thursday, held that Kanu’s suit lacked merit and subsequently dismissed it.
Kanu had sued the Director General of DSS, DSS and Attorney-General of the Federation as 1st to 3rd respondents in the suit.
The IPOB leader alleged that the DSS subjected him to different inhuman treatments, including denying him his right to wear any clothes of his choice like the Igbo traditional attire called “Isi-Agu,” while in their facility or any time he appeared in court for his trial.
Kanu alleged that the security outfit while allowing other inmates in their custody the freedom to choose and wear any clothes of their choice, he was restricted to wearing only a single clothing.
The applicant also accused the DSS of subjecting him to torture, breaching his right to dignity, among others.
He, therefore, sought an order directing the respondents to allow him to put on any clothing of his choice while in the facility or when appearing in public, among other reliefs.
In a counter affidavit filed by the DSS and its Director General, they urged the court to dismiss Kanu’s claim.
They said that their operatives had not and had never tortured Kanu either physically or mentally while in their custody.
According to the DSS, the applicant (Kanu) is kept in their facility where every other suspect is kept.
They said it was untrue that other suspects were allowed to put on any clothing of their choice, including Hausa and Yoruba traditional wear.
They noted that the facility was not a recreational centre or traditional festival where Kanu and other suspects would be allowed to adore themselves in their respective traditional attires, arguing that there is a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) on dress code by persons in their facilities.
“That in line with global best practices, persons in the 1st and 2nd respondents’ facility are allowed to wear only plain clothes which do not bear symbols, writings, colours and insignias that are offensive to any religion, ethnic group or even the Nigeria state in general,” they said.
They accused Kanu’s family of bringing traditional attires and other clothing with Biafra insignias and pair of red shoes decorated with shining beads for him to wear in custody and also to attend court for his trial.
The clothes, the DSS said, have colours of the non-existing Biafra Republic, which is the subject matter of the applicant’s criminal trial.
They said the “Isi-Agu” attire, popularly called chieftaincy attire, was not a suitable dress for persons in detention facilities and was against its SOP.
They also argued that Justice Binta Nyako, where Kanu is currently standing trial, had directed that Kanu should be allowed to wear any plain clothing of his choice and that anything contrary would contravene the court’s directive.
The DSS said they never breached his right to human dignity as alleged by the IPOB leader.
Delivering judgement, Justice Omotosho held that the right to human dignity is contained in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
He said it was clear that a right to human dignity related to the right against torture and inhuman treatment, among others.
The judge held that Kanu’s case did not relate to torture or forced labour as he was never tortured while in custody based on the evidence before the court.
He said a right to dignity was not a right to change clothes as an inmate in a prison.
“The applicant cannot come to court to seek rights which are not in the constitution,” he said.
Justice Omotosho also held that Kanu failed to provide the photographs and names of inmates who were allowed to wear different attires while in custody.
He said the onus was on him to prove his case, but the applicant merely rely on bare facts without any evidence.
He described the IPOB leader’s allegations as “a hypothesis without concrete evidence.”
The judge, consequently, dismissed the case for lacking in merit.