Court orders DSS to compensate Abuja driver N5m for unlawful detention

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The Department of State Services has been ordered by a Federal High Court in Abuja to pay a fine of N5 million for the illegal arrest and detention of Sanusi Shuaib, a commercial driver based in Abuja.

The court also mandated the Department of State Services (DSS) to promptly release the driver, who has been in custody since March 2023.

The detained driver, represented by his lawyer Bala Dakum, took legal action against the DSS to contest his prolonged detention without trial following his arrest.

Dakum asserted that upon his client’s arrest, the DSS accused him of possessing firearms intended for alleged terrorists and has detained him since then.

During the proceedings, the lawyer requested his client’s release and sought N50 million in compensation for the unjust detention.

In delivering the verdict on Thursday, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon ruled that the DSS blatantly violated Section 35 of the Nigerian constitution, which prohibits the detention of any Nigerian beyond 48 hours without a court order.

Olajuwon noted that on March 29, 2023, the DSS obtained a court order from the Federal High Court to detain the driver for a maximum of 20 days for investigation purposes and to initiate charges if implicated in any criminal activities.

She highlighted that the Department of State Services (DSS) neither sought an extension of the initial 20-day detention period from the court nor brought any charges against the driver.

Olajuwon emphasized that any detention beyond the stipulated 20 days was unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, and therefore null and void.

She pointed out that the DSS’s actions breached the applicant’s fundamental right to freedom of movement.

The judge contested the DSS’s assertion that they were granted a six-month period for detaining the driver, clarifying that the court had only granted a 20-day period.

Justice Olajuwon also dismissed 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 presented to the court.

Furthermore, the judge refuted the security agency’s assertion that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had sanctioned the driver’s trial.

Quoting from the AGF’s letter, Justice Olajuwon stated that the AGF’s office merely recommended a fresh investigation into the allegations against the driver, which had not been carried out.

The judge then annulled the driver’s detention and mandated his prompt release from DSS custody.