In a significant turn of events, the Federal High Court in Abuja has made a ruling regarding the fundamental rights enforcement suit brought forth by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), against the Department of State Services (DSS). Judge James Omotosho, presiding over the case, delivered a judgment stating that Kanu’s suit lacked merit and should be dismissed.
The suit, identified as FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2022 and filed by Kanu’s lawyer, named the Director General of DSS and the Attorney-General of the Federation as the first to third respondents, respectively. In his claims, Kanu alleged that the DSS subjected him to various inhumane treatments, including denying him the right to wear the Igbo traditional attire known as “Isi-Agu” while in their custody or during court appearances.
According to Kanu, while other inmates enjoyed the freedom to choose and wear any clothing they desired, he was restricted to a single garment. Furthermore, he accused the DSS of subjecting him to torture and violating his right to dignity, among other allegations. Consequently, he sought an order from the court directing the respondents to allow him the liberty to wear clothing of his choosing while in their facility or in public.
However, the DSS and its Director General, in their counter affidavit, urged the court to dismiss Kanu’s claims. They vehemently denied any physical or mental torture inflicted upon Kanu during his time in their custody. The DSS argued that their treatment of Kanu was consistent with that of any other suspect held in their facility. They refuted Kanu’s claim that other suspects were allowed to wear clothing representing various ethnic groups, emphasizing that their dress code adhered to a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) that required plain attire without offensive symbols, writings, colors, or insignias.
Furthermore, the DSS accused Kanu’s family of attempting to provide him with traditional attires bearing Biafra insignias and a pair of red shoes adorned with shining beads. These items were deemed inappropriate as they showcased the colors associated with the non-existent Biafra Republic, the very subject matter of Kanu’s ongoing criminal trial. The DSS argued that the attire known as Isi-Agu, typically worn for chieftaincy purposes, was unsuitable for individuals in detention facilities and directly contradicted the SOP.
The DSS further highlighted that Justice Binta Nyako, presiding over Kanu’s trial, had previously issued a directive allowing him to wear plain clothing of his choice. Any deviation from this directive would contravene the court’s orders. Lastly, the DSS firmly denied breaching Kanu’s right to human dignity, asserting that the allegations made by the IPOB leader lacked concrete evidence.
In his ruling, Justice Omotosho emphasized that the right to human dignity is enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution. He clarified that this right primarily pertains to protection against torture and inhuman treatment. The judge determined that Kanu’s case did not involve torture or forced labor, as no evidence supporting such claims was presented to the court. Justice Omotosho stressed that the right to dignity did not encompass the right to change clothes while in custody.
Furthermore, the judge noted that Kanu failed to provide any photographic evidence or names of inmates who were permitted to wear different attires during their detention. It was incumbent upon Kanu to substantiate his claims, but he relied solely on bare assertions without supporting evidence. Consequently, Justice Omotosho dismissed the case due to its lack of merit.
In a decisive blow to Kanu’s legal battle, the court’s ruling firmly establishes the absence of any constitutional rights that were violated by the DSS. As the case concludes, the dismissal brings a sense of closure to this particular chapter in Nnamdi Kanu’s ongoing legal saga.