A civil rights group, Centre Against Impunity in Nigeria (CAIN) on Thursday appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Nigeria Navyto release some 22 Nigerians in their custody.
The National Chairman of the centre, Shina Loremikan, made the call at a news conference in Lagos.
He alleged that the detainees had been held for the past nine months without trial, saying their continued detention infringed on their fundamental human rights.
Mr Loremikan listed the detainees as Dada Labinjo, a captain; Sherifat Lambert, a Lt. Commander; Segun Yusuf; Benjamin Gold; Peter Pulle; and Pius Paul.
He gave the names of other detainees as Reuben Onoja, Adeleke Adewale, Kehinde Labinjo, Oluwaseun Ogunmoyero, Emmanuel Oputa and Innocent Sunday.
Mr Loremikan added that Friday Lejoro, Hamza Yakubu, Melvin Jack, Francis Onyema, Adebayo Mayowa, Goodwill Umoh, Bosin Iyala, Edu Fidelis, Richard David and Daniel Harrison were also being held.
Mr Loremikan said Mr Labinjo and his wife, Sherifat were arrested at their residence in September 2018, and that the remaining detainees, who were subsequently arrested were all Crew of his ship, “Adreline Jumbo”.
“All these persons are all Nigerians whose fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution and the African Charter have been abused.
“And we are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on authorities of the Nigeria Navy to disclose to Nigerians what their offences are or release them forthwith if there are no charges against them,” he said.
Mr Loremikan explained that Mr Labinjo and his wife were personnel of the Navy before they were “unlawfully dismissed.”
He claimed the couple challenged their dismissal at the Federal High Court, Lagos, and that the court ordered their reinstatement in a judgment delivered on February 26.
Mr Loremikan added that the Navy appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court and that the Navy lost at both courts.
He claimed that instead of the Navy to comply with the judgment, they took to what he described as impunity by detaining him and his wife as well as his employees.
Mr Loremikan said the detainees were being moved from one detention facility to another and that no formal charges had been made against them.
The group coordinator added that family members and their solicitors had been denied access to them, saying their continued detention without trial is the height of impunity.
“We are not saying they should not be tried, if they have done any wrong. What we are saying is that the Navy should tell Nigerians the offence they have committed and prosecute them in line with the laws.
“The Navy can only arrest and not prosecute, therefore they should take them to court if they have a case them rather than illegally detaining them for nine months,” he said.
Mr Loremikan said the group believed that the president was a defender of the rule of law and that he would intervene in the matter to save families of the detainees from their agonies.
Wife of one of the detainees, Helen Yakubu, said things had been difficult since her husband, Hamza Yakubu, was detained.
The mother of four children said she had to take her kids to her mother as she could no longer take care of the kids.
Mrs Yakubu said she was not opposed to the prosecution of her husband if he had done anything wrong, but she noted detaining him and others without trial as an act of impunity.
“I am calling on President Buhari to intervene in this matter. My husband is innocent and things have been difficult for the family.
“The Navy authorities should release my husband because he has done nothing wrong and if they think he has done anything wrong they should try him.
“He is the Chief Engineer of Adrenaline Jumbo and since he was arrested when he went to work, things have not been easy. The Navy should release him, he is innocent,’’ she said.
Also Yemi Yusuf, wife of another detainee, Segun Yusuf, said her husband called her from work sometime last year that he was being detained.
She said the Navy authorities were yet to tell her and children the offence he committed and that life had been difficult for her and that family.
“My husband was the Captain of the vessel, Adrenalin Jumbo. I have not seen him for months and things have been extremely hard for the family.
“President Buhari should please help us. We voted for democracy and rule of law, but what is being done to my husband is not something good at all.
“Whatever he may have done, they should charge him to court. And if they do not have anything against him they should please release him. We are suffering, the President should help us,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, had on Tuesday written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Abdul Kafarati, urging him to ensure that civilians detained at military facilities across the country were released without delay.
He said the Navy had ignored calls to release no fewer than 150 persons detained in its facilities in Lagos, Abuja, Warri and Port Harcourt.
The lawyer said court orders for their release had been treated with contempt, saying the continued detention of those affected is illegal and contempt.