Boko Haram: Ex-sergeant Sues Army over Arrest of His Children

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A retired army sergeant on Monday asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to declare unlawful, arrest and detention of his wards over alleged membership of a terrorist group.

The Sergeant, Burma Abdullahi, filed the suit through his Counsel, Mr Christopher Okafor.

According to him, the wards are Haruna Zarkya, 18, and three others aged 16, 11 and seven.

They were allegedly arrested and being detained by the Nigerian Army.

The respondents in the suit are the Nigerian Army, chief of army staff, general officer commanding 81 Division of the Nigerian Army and the attorney-general of the federation.

Abdullahi is seeking an order for enforcement of the fundamental rights of the wards.

When the case was mentioned on Monday, Counsel to the applicant, Okafor, submitted that the defence counsel was absent in court in spite of repeated notice to him of the pending suit.

Okafor also said that a counter-affidavit by the respondents was filed out of time, adding that they failed to file a motion to regularise the affidavit.

He, therefore, prayed the court to be allowed to move his application.

Justice Okon Abang granted him leave to move application and adopt his written address.

Adopting his address, Okafor prayed the court to hold that the arrest of the wards, including a minor, constituted a breach of their rights to personal liberty.

He argued that it was illegal for the respondents to have arrested the wards, where there existed no reasonable suspicion of their culpability in respect to any offence or terrorist activities.

He submitted that the wards fled Maiduguri for Lagos only for safety, adding that their suspicion as belonging to the Boko Haram sect was unreasonable and laughable.

Okafor prayed the court to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant in the interest of natural justice and to direct immediate release of the wards from custody.

Justice Abang reserved judgment till Sept. 26.

In his affidavit, Abdullahi averred that following the security challenges in the North-East Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria, he and the wards temporarily relocated to No. 63, Ajibola St., Mafoluku, Lagos.

He said that, on July 3, 2013, while he was away at Maiduguri, some men in police and army vehicles stormed his residence and arrested his wards.

According to Abdullahi, when he returned to Lagos and heard of the arrest, he went to police stations in fruitless search for the children.

He averred that his attention was eventually drawn to a Daily Sun publication of July 30, 2013, which reported that the children were among those paraded as suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.

He averred that since then, they had made several abortive attempts to convince security operatives that the children had nothing to do with the sect.

Abdullahi seeks an order compelling the respondents to release the wards from their custody as well as pay N10 million for detaining them. He also wants the respondents to tender a public apology to the wards for the detention.


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