11 December 2012

Nigeria: Army, SSS Lack Powers to Detain Terror Suspects - NBA

Photo: Vanguard
Nigeria's transformation

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday said the army and the Department of State Security Service (SSS) have no constitutional powers to detain terrorism suspects in their cells indefinitely.

Consequently, the NBA has demanded the immediate transfer of all terrorism suspects to the police for prosecution.

NBA President Okey Wali (SAN) who made the declaration at the roundtable to mark this year's International Human Rights Day in Abuja, said the indefinite detention of the suspects violated Section 35 (4) and (5) and 36 of the constitution.

Army and the SSS have been accused of holding without trial several terror suspects particularly suspected members of the Boko Haram sect in their detention facilities nationwide.

Wali said neither the National Security Agencies Act of 2004 nor Section 217 of the constitution empowered the security agencies to detain the terror suspects for a long time without trial.

He said the non amendment of the Terrorism Act should not be an excuse, saying "such an amendment if passed can never take a retrospective effect.

"Nothing justifies the detention of insurgents by agencies not empowered to detain them. Nothing justifies the refusal of the said agencies to hand over the insurgents to the Nigeria Police Force. Nothing justifies the Nigeria Police Force in joining other security agencies in detaining insurgents without trial," he said.

Also speaking, Prof Cyril Ndifon of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar, identified awareness and enforcement as the key factors in human rights protection.

He added that following the United Nations declaration of December 10, 1949 human rights have evolved from civil and political to social, economic and cultural rights.

In her speech, the Chairman of the NBA Human Rights Governing Council, Justice Amina Augie, represented by Festus Okoye, observed that Nigeria has been poliarised on the basis of linguistic and religious lines and called on the National Assembly to redefine the Nigerian Citizenship in the on-going constitutional amendment.

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