The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of Capt Dada Labinjo, President of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) who was allegedly detained by the Nigerian Navy since last September 13 without trial.
Justice Chuka Obiozor ruled on his fundamental rights enforcement application.
He held that it was illegal to keep the applicant in detention for so long without charge.
The judge held that the Navy breached Labinjo’s fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Obiozor ordered the respondents to release Labinjo’s seized mobile phone to him.
According to the judge, the Navy could not sufficiently justify Labinjo’s prolonged incarceration, contrary to the 1999 Constitution and the Armed Forces Act.
Justice Obiozor said the former naval officer should be released from custody or arraigned before a competent court of law “if there is reasonable suspicion that he committed any criminal offence”.
He deplored what he called “growing culture of official impunity in the country” in which the authorities wantonly violate rights.
The judge said he was “compelled to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice” to sanction the naval personnel responsible for the violation of the detainees’ fundamental rights.
To the judge, such officers should be tried under the Criminal Code Act and the Anti-Torture Act.
Labinjo had filed an enforcement of fundamental rights application, praying the court to order his release.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), last Thursday, arraigned Labinjo’s wife, Bola, also a former naval officer (a.k.a. Lt Commander Ibe Lambert), before Justice Obiozor for allegedly dealing in petroleum products without license.
She was arraigned along with Jonathan Abaka, Charles Ikemefuna Agaba, Benjamin Gagechi, Hamza Yakubu and a vessel, M.T. Adeline Jumbo, on two counts of conspiracy and dealing in petroleum products without license.
EFCC said they conspired to deal in Automobile Gas Oil (AGO) off the coast of Gabon on August 13, 2018, without lawful authority and appropriate licence to deal in petroleum products.
They were arrested by the Navy and handed over to the EFCC, with the Navy saying that Labinjo was still under investigation.
According to the prosecution, the defendants allegedly committed the offence between August and October last year within the Nigerian maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea.
They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail.