A 34-year-old man, Mr Ovakpor Osagada and three others, are presently in a running battle with the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Delta, Warri, Delta State, for violating their freedom of movement beyond 24 hours.
Osagada and three other crew members were arrested by men of the Warri naval base on April 1, while the vessel was berthing in Warri and have since been in the gulag of the navy without trial in the law court or hand over to the police not to talk of an access to their family members.
Osagada is a deckhand and an employee of Bentech Nigeria Ltd, a marine company domiciled at Enerhen Road, Effurun, near Warri owned by one Chief Benard Edewor.
InsideNigerDelta gathered that sometime in the month of January, 2014 the vessel, MV GARE, owned by Bentech Nigeria Ltd, was contracted from Warri to convey food stuffs to some clients in the high sea.
While on this mission, the said vessel which crew included MR. Ovakpo Osagada, came under a heavy attack on the high sea by sea pirates, who invaded the ship and forcefully made away with all the foodstuffs.
It was further gathered that after the heavy attack, the vessel and her crew who escaped death by the whiskers, made a U-turn back to Warri for safety.
It was also gathered that sometime in the month of March, the vessel and her crew were again, attacked by sea pirates while conveying food stuffs to some clients in the high sea, off Escravos. According to the report, the food stuffs were also carted away while the vessel and her crew had to abort the journey and return to Warri as they did the previous time.
After this second incident, it was gathered that the captain and the engineer of the vessel as well as Mr Osagada were arrested by naval personnel on April 1 and are yet o be released till date. The reason being advanced by the navy for their arrest but denied by the victims was that they were engaged in sea piracy.
InsideNigerDelta scooped that the owner of the vessel, Bentech Nigeria Ltd usually apply for no fewer than 11 naval personnel as escorts each time it was embarking on voyages. So the two times the vessel was allegedly attacked, naval personnel from NNS Delta were said to be on board the vessel.
Meanwhile, counsel to Mr Osagada, Oghenejabor Ikimi of Oghenejabor Ikimi & Co Chambers located in Udu Road, has petitioned the Chief Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, as well as the Commander, NNS Delta, Captain Musa Gemu, asking for his immediate release.
Ikimi is also requesting an immediate prosecution of the suspect and his colleagues and a fine of N2 million for detention of his client beyond the stipulated 24 hours recognised by the law.
‚ÄúThat the continuous detention of Mr Ovakpor Osagada and his crew members by the Navy is a violation of their fundamental rights to liberty, hence this petition to your office, as we shall not hesitate to enforce same and claim damages at large against the Naval authorities in the event that the above demand of our client is not heeded,‚Äù the petition read in part.
The petition was, however, followed by a suit filed against the Nigerian Navy at the High Court, Otor-Udu, in Udu Local Government Area in Suit No: OUHC/110/2014 Me. Ovakpo Osagada VS Navy Captain Musa Gemu & 2 others.
Ikimi is praying the court for an order directing the respondents to release the applicant, Mr. Osagada and a declaration that the aforesaid arrest is unconstitutional.
The counsel, in the suit, is also requesting N2 million as damages against Captain Gemu and the CNS as well as a public apology to the applicant published in two national dailies.
‚ÄúMy Lord, this is an Application brought pursuant to Order 2 Rules 2, 3 and 4 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 and Sections 35(1) and 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), praying this Honourable Court for the enforcement of the Applicant‚Äôs fundamental rights to liberty and right to private and family life.
‚ÄúWe hope that the above public interest case would help to check the several cases of rights violation by armed uniform men in our polity,‚Äù Oghenejabor prayed.
However, Commander of NNS Delta, had, at an interactive forum with journalists in his office recently, hinted that the vessel and crew members were apprehended for their involment in sea piracy and other criminal engagements in the sea. He said the suspects were still being interrogated in order to get the root of the matter before being handed over to the police for prosecution.