Federal High Court Fines DSS N5m for Unlawful Detention of Abuja-Based Driver

Judge and gavel in courtroom

In a landmark judgment, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to pay a fine of N5 million for the unlawful arrest and detention of an Abuja-based commercial driver, Sanusi Shuaib. Additionally, the court has directed the immediate release of the detained driver, who has been in custody since March 2023.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the driver through his lawyer, Bala Dakum, challenging his prolonged detention without trial following his arrest. Dakum argued that his client had been unlawfully held by the DSS on accusations of possessing firearms for alleged terrorists.

In delivering the judgment on Thursday, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon declared that the DSS had violated Section 35 of the Nigerian constitution, which prohibits the detention of any individual beyond 48 hours without a court order. The court noted that the DSS had obtained an initial order from the Federal High Court on March 29, 2023, allowing for the detainee to be held for a period of only 20 days for investigation and potential charges.

However, Justice Olajuwon emphasized that the DSS failed to seek an extension of the detention period beyond the initial 20 days or bring any charges against the detainee within that timeframe. As such, any detention beyond the stipulated period was deemed unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, and null and void.

Furthermore, the court rejected the DSS’s claim that the detainee had been transferred to a military detention facility in Niger State for trial on terrorism charges, citing a lack of evidence to support this assertion. Similarly, the judge dismissed the DSS’s claim that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had approved the trial, stating that the AGF’s office had only recommended a fresh investigation into the allegations, which was never conducted.

Consequently, Justice Olajuwon annulled the driver’s detention and ordered his immediate release from DSS custody, underscoring the breach of the detainee’s fundamental rights to freedom of movement.

Kindly share this story: