The Nigerian Navy has denied detaining a former rating, Lucky Nyeke, who had been held incommuncado since March 2017 over his alleged involvement in stolen arms.
In an affidavit sworn to by the lawyer for the Nigerian Navy before the Federal High Court Registry, Ikoyi, Lagos, the Navy said it had transferred the victim to the Department of State Services.
PUNCH Metro had reported that Lucky, who was attached to the Naval Special Boat Services Camp, Ojo, was first detained in March 2015 for alleged possession of ammunition.
A special court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, but he was not released at the expiration of the jail term.
After PUNCH Metro reported the case in January 2016, the Ahoada-West, Rivers State indigene, was released from detention and subsequently dismissed from service.
Lucky was said to have approached the Femi Falana Chambers, which sued the Navy for extending his term of punishment unjustly.
A Lagos court awarded N10m damages against the Nigerian Navy for infringing on his rights.
However, a few weeks to the verdict, the lawyer for the victim, Chukwuma Onwuemene, said the Flag Officer Commanding, Naval Training Command, Harbour Road, Apapa, allegedly ordered some naval ratings to arrest Lucky at his Port Harcourt home.
He was said to have been handed over to the police in Lagos, who investigated him over his alleged involvement in the theft of weapons in the naval armoury in December 2016.
Despite his clearance by the police, who told PUNCH Metro that he was only arrested based on suspicion, the Navy refused to release him.
He was said to have been tortured to a coma and was rushed to a private hospital from where he was transferred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, due to his deteriorating health condition.
The Navy reportedly transferred him to Abuja where he had since been held incommunicado.
The Navy Director of Information, Captain Suleiman Dahun, had, in a follow-up report on June 14, confirmed to our correspondent that Lucky was in the custody of the naval authorities in Abuja.
But the Femi Falana Chambers, represented by Onwuemene, filed an application for the enforcement of Lucky’s fundamental human rights before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Onwuemene also filed an ex parte motion against the Nigerian Navy and the Chief of Naval Staff, asking the court to order the unconditional release of Lucky or show cause for his continued detention.
On July 5, 2017, the court granted the reliefs and adjourned the case till July 7.
However, the Navy, in its counter affidavit, dated July 24 by the Regulating Officer in charge of the Nigerian Navy Detention Facility, Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft (NNS Beecroft), Apapa, Lt. P.O. Nkwede, said Lucky was no longer in its facility.
The affidavit read in part, “That sometime in December 2016, there was a break into the arms stores at the Naval Arms Stores attached to JMSTC in Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos State, by unknown persons and after a preliminary investigation, it was alleged that some of the ratings, in connivance with the applicant (Lucky) and another, were part of the conspiracy.
“That the findings of the preliminary investigation resulted in the arrest of the applicant in Port Harcourt and another person in Lagos….
“That the respondents (Navy) did the right thing by arresting and handing him over to the police as seen in the several deposition of the applicant himself and that the order to further detain the applicant was sought and obtained at the Yaba Magistrates’ Court….
“That the duty of the respondents as a responsible public institution was to make a report to the appropriate organ of the happening in its organisation and that what happened in this matter was not the making of the respondents.
“That one other occasion (after arrest and handing over to the police) when the respondents had contact with the applicant was when the police were to transfer the applicant to Abuja after the investigation carried out by the police.
“The flight booked for the applicant was cancelled and the respondent was then brought to NNS Beecrofts and did not stay in the detention facility for more than four days before he was taken to the DIA; that the applicant through investigation is now before the DSS in Abuja. The applicant was never tortured or dehumanised.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that an application to join the Director General of the DSS had been filed before the court and the matter would be heard on Friday.
The wife of Lucky, Sonia, said the victim’s mother was recently informed about the travail of her son and had passed out on hearing the news.
She explained that the family had been denied access to him by the Navy, adding that she was surprised to hear that he had been transferred to the DSS.
She said, “We were having a prayer session in the house when a pastor made mention of his case.
“After the prayers, she pestered us to know what happened to her son and why we had been silent on her enquiries about him. We were forced to tell her and immediately she heard, she collapsed. We had to rush her to a hospital.
“I have not spoken to Lucky all this while and I keep wondering why the Navy is punishing my husband.
“I have insisted that if they have a case against him, they should charge him to court, but they have refused.
“Now, we don’t know if he is still alive or dead. My children have been asking for their father and I don’t know what to tell them again.”