A Nigerian court has ruled as illegal the deportation of 47 Cameroonian activists in January 2018.
The asylum seekers were agitating for the independence of the Anglophone regions in Cameroon when they were arrested in Abuja on January 9, 2018, on the instruction of the Nigerian National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno.
They were detained in an underground cell at the headquarters of Directorate Intelligence Agency, Abuja, and deported to Cameroon on January 26 where they were handed over to the authorities are on trial for sedition.
If convicted, they may spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, filed a law suit on their behalf and a court has ruled that they were illegally deported to Cameroon.
In the cases of Mr Sisiku Ayuk Tabe & 11 others And The National Security Adviser And Another (Suit No/Fhc/Abj/C5/85/2018) Wilfred Tassang And 50 Others Vs Nsa And Another (Suit No Fhc/Abj/Cs/147/2018) Hon Justice A.I Chikere, Federal High Court L, Abuja, the Applicants were arrested at 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 Directorate Intelligence Agency, Abuja. In a suit filed on their behalf by prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Fakana SAN the applicants prayed for the following declarations and orders:
1) A declaration that the arrest of the applicants without warrant of arrest is 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.
2) A declaration that the detention of the applicants in an underground prison by the 1st Respondent was a violation of their right to personal liberty
3) A declaration that the detention of the applicants without access to their lawyers or family was a violation of their right to fair hearing.
4) A declaration that the arrest and detention of the applicants was a violation of their right to freedom of assembly and association.
5. An order of the court ordering the immediate release of the applicants.
6. Pay the applicants the sum of 200 million naira each as compensation for the damage and hardship which they suffered.
7. An order of perpetual injunction restraining any further violation of the rights of the applicants by the defendant or any of its agencies.
Even though the respondents did not file a counter affidavit, they nonetheless, raised a preliminary objection hinged on the following grounds of objection:
1) The court lacked jurisdiction to entertain this matter.
2) That this case did not fall within Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution as amended so cannot be commenced by way of Fundamental Human Right enforcement proceeding.
3) That the applicant failed to file a competent affidavit to support their claim since the affidavit was not deposed to by the applicant and the person who deposed to it failed to state why the affidavit was not personally deposed to by the applicant.
In arguing the preliminary objection the Respondents’s Counsel, Mr. D. Suleiman urged the Court to dismiss the case on the ground that it was brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009. But Mr. Falana 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 declared the arrest and detention of the 12 applicants illegal as the federal government did not controvert the affidavit of the applicants and awarded N5 million damages to each of them.
On the deportation of the 12 detainees and 35 others from Nigeria to Cameroon on January 26, 2019 the presiding judge, Justice Chikere dismissed the preliminary objection of the federal government as lacking in merit.
The judge agreed with the submission that the applicants were expelled from 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 have prohibited Nigeria from expelling or deporting refugees and asylum seekers from Nigeria.
Consequently, Justice Chikere declared the deportation of the applicants illegal and unconstitutional, awarded N200,000 to each of them and ordered the federal government to ensure that they are brought back to Nigeria forthwith. And granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from further violating the fundamental rights of the Applicants in any manner whatsoever and howsoever upon return to Nigeria.