Court orders Navy, others to produce hotelier detained for over 90 days

A Federal High Court sitting at Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, has ordered the officers of the Nigeria Navy and others to appear before her and explain why they failed to arraign one Saibu Ogunmola, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Peace and Love International Hotel, who has been in their custody since January 17, 2019.

Justice Lilian Ijeoma Ojukwu, who presided over the court, gave the order while delivering judgment in a motion ex-parte for the hotelier’s fundamental right suit filed by his lawyer, McAnthony Aikharialea.

Joined as Nigeria Navy co-respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/287/19, are: the Chief of Naval Staff; the Commander NNS Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) Abuja.

In the motion exparte, lawyer to the hotelier, Aikharialea, asked the court for an order granting the applicant bail forthwith from the respondents’ detention pending the determination of main suit. 

He also asked for an order compelling the respondents or any other agency to appear before the court with the applicant to show cause why the applicant should not be arraign for whatever offence alleged against him having gone beyond reasonable time to do so.

The Hotelier’s lawyer also informed the court that all efforts made to see his clients were frustrated by the respondents.

The hotelier in an affidavit deposed to by one of cousins, Sodiq Raji, averred that he know the detained Hotelier who is from Ilashe Village (across the water), Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Lagos State, is a businessman and a Community leader who, though spend most of his time at his Snake Island, where his Hotel is located, but always In touch with virtually everybody In the village and guide the youth against nefarious acts. 

The deponent also stated that the applicant and everybody at Ilashe village acknowledges despite the close mark and watch the hotelier gives especially the youths In the village, there are some of them that remain deviant and unchanged especially In the illicit dealing of vandalised Pipelines Product and In many cases the hotelier Informed the Security Agents, especially the Police of names of the youths Involved In the act at some points In time. 

The deponent further stated that at some points, the life of the applicant was threatened seriously by the Vandals and that mainly Informed the reason why he hardly sleep In the Village, because the deviant ones believes the Applicant Is the pipelines security Agents/Informant. 

That the Applicant, however, ensures the majority of the innocent Youths are under the control and guide which informed the reason they always call him from the Village for any development or occurrence. 

The deponent also stated that on that January 16, 2019, he was with the Applicant in his hotel at lgbo-Eseyore, Snake island, Lagos at about 11.30pm. when another Cousin of his residing at llashe called him to informed him that some Navy Officers are in the Area (Ilashe) doing some search and in the process found some ‘Kegs’ and some of the Kegs they found contained Premium Motor Spirit (PMS). And that the Applicant, indeed, advised his Cousin, Semiu to make sure he stay indoors and must not obstruct the Naval Officers’ Search. 

He also stated that at some point in time, the applicant’s cousin called again to informed him that there is a problem resulting from one of the Navy Officers attempt to set the recovered Kegs with Premium Motor Spirit Product ablaze and got burnt in the process. And that the hotelier who was restless when he heard about the ongoing accident involving one of the Naval Officers quickly instructed his Cousin to get other persons around to give the Naval Officers possible assistance and rescue the Officer involved. 

The deponent averred further that the Applicant as his tradition planned to go to the Village first thing in the morning of January 17, 2019, to ascertain the situation and possible feelings of both the Community and the Naval men who are more or less co-inhabitant of the area due to the surrounded water in which they (Naval Officers) do their constant patrol. 

And that surprisingly, at about 5.00am. on January 17, 2019, a day after the narrated incidence, some armed Naval Officers stormed the Applicant’s hotel at igbo Eseyore, Snake island, Lagos to conduct serious search and nothing incriminating was found. 

He added that right after their Search of the Applicant’s hotel and the surrounding, the Naval Officers took him away to Ilashe Village where the night incidence occurred for another Search and subsequently took him away to their base at NNS Beecroft Naval Base, Apapa and detained him at their Apapa Cell for seven days and subsequently moved to Abuja, till date without access to see him by his family members at Abuja. 

He further stated that at the moment, virtually everyone in the village and most especially the family members are apprehensive of the hotelier’s condition in the respondents’ Cell at Abuja and the fact that he is a diabetic patient who is always on the watch list of his doctor at Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Ikeja and one of his doctors in the hospital Dr. E. 0. Williams really expressed fear and asks that the family and his Solicitor to do something fast to ensure his release to avoid possible complication.

He added  that aside the applicant’s complex health situation, he is the breadwinner for not just his aged adopted mother and immediate family but very many people in the village; and most importantly is the fact that  most able youths in llashe Village are not involved in pipeline vandalization is the close mark and watch of the applicant who they fear and respect. 

The hotelier’s lawyer therefore urged the  court to either grant the bail to his client in the most liberal terms or compel the respondents, especially, the DIA or any Other Agency they may want to hand him over to produce him In Court forthwith for possible arraignment (if any). 

The lawyer also undertook to ensure that reliable sureties are provided if the applicant’s application is granted and ensure that he is present in court whenever the matter comes up until the full determination of the case against him (if any).

Upon hearing the submission of the lawyer, Justice Ojukwu held: “after listened carefully to the argument of the counsel and upon careful consideration of the facts stated in the affidavit, I hereby order the respondents to appear before this court with the applicant, to show cause why he should not be arraign for whatever offence alleges against having gone beyond time to do that.

“The matter is hereby adjourn till May 3, report of compliance”.

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