Published On: Sun, Dec 18th, 2016

Suspected militant, Torughedi, writes UN over alleged plans by DSS to infect him with TB

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  • Says he’s been detained for over 6 months without trial

  • Says he’s detained with 34 others in a 16 by 16 room with TB patient

  • Says he is as sick as a dog and may die in detention except he is allowed to seek medical attention

  • Says Abuja court orders his release but DSS refuses to obey judgment

  • Begs UN to intervene to allow him live to defend himself

Ten days after he cried out to the international rights watchdog, Amnesty International, suspected militant leader, Mr Kile Selky Torughedi, detained by the Department of State Service (DSS) since June 17, 2016 over his alleged membership of Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has written a letter to the United Nations begging it to prevail on the DSS to release him from its custody as ordered by the Abuja division of the Federal high court to enable him receive medical attention.

Torughedi told the United Nations that he is presently as sick as a dog and could give up the ghost except he is allowed home to seek medical attention.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations routed through the Abuja Office of the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP), Torughedi painted a pathetic picture of what he was going through in a 16 by 16 feet room without window where he and 34 others were detained with a tuberculosis patient, saying except the international body came to his rescue, he would die without being given opportunity to defend and clear his name of the serious allegation levelled against him.

The letter which has been seen by Bar and Bench Watch was written by his lawyer, Emeka Uchegbulam.

According to Uchegbulam in the letter, “As we write this letter, Selky is languishing in prison, he is seriously sick with virtually no medical attention and his health is deteriorating by the day.

“Selky Torughedi is locked up in an underground cell that houses almost 35 inmates without a window or any other form of ventilation except an air conditioner that works for 24 hours subject to availability of power supply.

“He is chained down in the cell all day and night except when he is permitted to take his bathe which is always twice in a week.

“To worsen the situation, two of the inmates cough incessantly throughout the day and even at night.

“Our findings indicate that one of them was a Tuberculosis patient and was actually undergoing treatment for the ailment before he was arrested some months ago and thrown into the common cell where a majority of the inmates, including Selki live.

“Sir, in a single cell measuring about 16 feet by 16 feet with such large number of people cramped into that space, among them tuberculosis sufferer, there is no gain saying that it is a danger of epidemic dimension waiting to happen.”

“Selki is already malnourished and weak, no thanks to his long incarceration without an end in sight.

“We are not oblivious of the fact that a man who is underfed, his movement restrained and is denied good oxygen at regular intervals is like a sitting duck to any opportunistic infection.

“It becomes more worrisome when such environment is co-habited with people with manifested history of infectious ailment such as tuberculosis. This is the situation and condition Selki is immersed in today,” the letter reads,  adding, “Sir, Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Ratifications and Enforcement Act 1981.

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“Article 5 of the charter states inter alia…Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitations and degradation of man particularly slavery, torture, cruel, inhuman degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.

“From all indications, the action of the Nigerian secret police against Selky Torughedi is an infringement of the charter and a repudiation of the agreement entered into by the Nigerian government.

Torughedi, going by his narrative, had been detained for over six months now without any charge or trial by the operatives of the DSS.

Bar and Bench Watch reports that the Department of State Services (DSS) had announced, in June this year, or thereabouts, that it arrested a suspected high ranking member of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), Torughedi in Calabar.

”The ‘Avengers’ constitute the militant group responsible for recent attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta region and other heinous crimes including kidnapping and murder.

According to the statement issued by Tony Opuiyo on behalf of the secret police, it had claimed that “In a bid to stem the activities of vandals in the Niger Delta, this service effected the arrest of Selky Kile Torughedi, on 17th June, 2016, in Calabar, Cross River state.

“Torughedi is an ex-militant and suspected member of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), and was arrested for planning to assassinate one M. B Yahaya, a serving military officer.

“Torughedi, who is a close associate of Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), had already conducted surveillance at the residence of Yahaya in Kaduna, preparatory to his plot when he was intercepted.

“He is also fingered as a sponsor of pipeline vandalism in some states in the south-south region. Suspect is currently assisting the service, with critical leads,” the statement added.

But Torughedi, in a seven page letter, dated December 5, 2016, addressed to the Country Director of Amnesty International (AI) is not only denying membership of NDA as he had done before a Federal high court, Abuja but also alleging that the operatives of the organisation appeared to have made up their mind to waste him extra-judicially in their custody.

He anchored his claim on the ground that his health had daily suffered in custody but that the operatives of the DSS were not bothered and that he was kept in a facility and position suggestive that they wanted him to die in pain and quickly too.

The suspected militant said he was pushed to the wall to approach the international human rights watch organisation for intervention after judicial efforts to get him out of custody appeared to have failed.

The letter which was written by the Chamber of Emeka Uchegbulam on behalf of Torughedi detailed the travail of its client in the hands of men of the DSS, the intervention of the judiciary and the refusal of both the DSS and the court to enforce the positive and subsisting judgment on behalf of Torughedi.

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In the fresh letter to the United Nations, the chamber of Emeka Uchegbulam re-echoed the narratives as relayed to the Amnesty International that Torughedi’s travail “began on 17th June, 2016 at about 1a.m, a time when some heavily armed  men numbering about ten decked in black uniform with  hood drawn over their faces to conceal their identities broke into his house where he lives with his wife and three very young children aged between two and five. They dragged him from his bed, got him handcuffed him in the presence of the wife and the young children.

“For a gruelling 45 minutes, they virtually turned the house upside down as they searched every nook and cranny apparently in search of incriminating evidence and when they could not find any, the men who introduced themselves as operatives of the Department of State Security literarily dragged Selky Torughedi from the house and bundled him into a waiting vehicle that took him away.

“From his Calabar residence, he was transferred to Abuja where the DSS told the nation that it had succeeded in arresting one of the arrow heads of the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group which had committed heinous crimes including kidnapping, terrorism, pipeline vandalisation, arms importation and economic sabotage,” the letter said.

But two weeks after Torughedi was detained by the DSS in its Headquarters facility in Abuja, he approached a Federal high court in Abuja through the Chamber of his counsel, Emeka Uchegbulam for enforcement of his fundamental human rights.

The chamber said it also demanded N100 million damages against the DSS.

The lead counsel in the fundamental rights application, Uchegbulam said although the DSS came to court to oppose the application vide an affidavit on the grounds that Torughedi is allegedly a high ranking member and sponsor of the NDA; that he was arrested for his involvement in the acts of militancy, terrorism, kidnapping, blowing up of pipelines and plans to assassinate some top government officials, the court overruled the DSS and ordered his immediate release.

According to the petition, the trial high court judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba had overruled the DSS on the various allegations against Torughedi for the reason that it (the DSS) had no single proof to offer to back its claims on why Torughedi should not be released.

According to separate letters written to both the Amnesty International and the United Nations, the judge was quoted to have reasoned that he had expected the DSS to file proofs in the form of a call log from communication companies showing discussions which the suspect had had with militant members plotting the nefarious activities, or in the form of statements offered by other arrested members pointing out the suspect as their member, or a confessional statement from the defendant for the court to evaluate.

The judge, according to the letter, had also held that the claim by the DSS was a puerile one when it claimed that the applicant was sponsoring NDA without explaining “in what form the applicant’s sponsorship of the militant group had taken whether it was financial, material or just moral sponsorship.

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“The judge also made the DSS to realise the futility of its position on the continuous detention of Torughedi when he said a suspect who is accused of planning to blow up pipelines and commit other crimes couldn’t have been arrested at midnight in the bosom of his wife; one should expect that he would be in the creeks with his comrade at arms,” the letter narrated.

Uchegbulam though said that the judge refused to award any damages against the DSS, he said the judge ordered the secret police organisation to release Torughedi forthwith, an order the DSS failed to obey till date.

He further told the United Nations that when it filed Form 48 and 49 to ensure enforcement of the court order, he said he was surprised to learn that the trial judge, Justice Dimgba handed off the case out of fear.

He said his private investigation showed that the DSS had written a petition against the judge to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and that he had to wash his hands off the case because if he should give any further ruling against the agency, the intention could be misunderstood.

He said the case file had since been returned to the Chie Judge of the Federal high court for re-assignment.

Uchegbulam added that his chamber had written a petition to the National Human Rights Commission dated October 4, 2016 to report the matter and pleaded with it to intervene but that two months after, nothing happened, except a letter of acknowledgment, “and no other thing while Selky continues to waste away in the DSS prison,” hence his decision to cry to the Amnesty International to intervene.

The letter concluded thus: “Our latest investigation revealed that the DSS is convinced that it has no evidence against Selky but it is holding on to him with a view to making him to implicate some highly placed people in the Niger Delta whom they believe are the unseen hands behind the Niger Delta Avengers.

“But Selky has continued to maintain that he cannot cooperate with DSS to implicate innocent people stressing that it is a sin against man and God to so do. Therefore, because of his refusal to do the sinister will of the DSS, they are determined to continue to detain him even at the risk to his life, they care less.

“As at the last visit to Selky in the DSS prison, he was a pitiable sight to behold. He has emaciated badly and he was virtually a walking corpse.

“Sir, we are of the belief that the DSS is determined to kill Selkh Torughedi, we are convinced beyond reasonable doubts.

“Our conviction is anchored on the fact that he is chained twenty four hours and seven days in a week even inside cell.

“He is underfed without proper medical attention and he is interrogated almost every day with a threat to hold him down until he implicates somebody.

“Sir, we are writing this letter to your good office to intervene in this blatant human rights abuse by the Nigerian secret police before our client dies in DSS detention,” Uchegbulam signed off.

The United Nations is yet to respond.

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