Unlawful detention: American nurse sues Lagos Police Commissioner

An American nurse, Kari-Ann R’ouke, has approached the Federal High Court, Lagos, over her ‘unlawful and indefinite’ detention by the Nigerian Police Force.

Mrs R’ouke, through her counsel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, filed the lawsuit on Thursday against the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Hakeem Odumosu, and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, Adegoke Fayoade.

She was arrested on February 9 and has been detained indefinitely over the death of her partner.

Despite the clear provision of the law over detention periods, the complainant has been detained for more than one month over a murder case, without being charged to court for the alleged crime.

According to her counsel, Mr Adegboruwa, the complainant in suit no FHC/L/CS/434/2021 is asking the court to order her release from police custody.

She is also asking for an award of N100 million as “general, aggravated, special and exceptional damages against the police.”

“Kari Ann is asking for a declaration that the police is not entitled to arrest and detain her for an indefinite period of time over a matter that does not disclose any reasonable offence, a declaration that her continued remand in perpetuity without a charge is illegal and unconstitutional and for an order directing the police to forthwith release her from illegal custody,” the counsel said.

In the affidavit written by the legal counsel in support of the case, Mrs R’ouke, a certified nurse in America, arrived Nigeria on January 21, 2021, to partner with “someone she met online to establish a humanitarian outfit.”

“Upon completing her assignment in Nigeria, she departed for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on February 8, 2021, enroute America.

“She was, however, stopped by the Immigration Department on the ground that her COVID 19 Test result had expired, whereupon she was made to sleep at the airport purportedly for a new COVID 19 test.

“It was later the following day that she was informed that she was being arrested because her friend had passed on, unknown to her. She has been in police custody ever since,” the affidavit partly read.

Mr Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the CCTV footage of the hotel showed clearly that “Kari Ann left her friend in the hotel room in good health in the company of his friends and relatives, all of whom were initially arrested but have now been released”.

The complainant said she is entitled to be released on bail in the same way that the principal suspects have been released and that she is only being persecuted because of her status as a foreign citizen.

Mr Adegboruwa said the autopsy report showed that the deceased died of cardiac arrest, without any foul play.

“Kari Ann has been a subject of extortion ever since, even though no prima facie case has been established against her. Since her incarceration, Kari Ann has lost about 23 pounds in weight, she has emaciated tremendously, she has suffered bouts of malaria, dysentery and she is going through extreme emotional and mental stress, without any link to her family or relatives,” Mr Adegboruwa said.

He added that Mrs R’ouke “has a delicate medical condition, she is anaemic and thus requires constant medical check up and treatment”.

In a case filed on behalf of Mrs R’ouke by her lawyer, she wants the court to order her release so that she could take care of her delicate health condition and go back to America to join her family.

She also seeks an order directing that she is entitled to move freely in any part of Nigeria, without let or hindrance from the police, while exercisig her fundamental rights.

Mr Adegboruwa, said the detention of his client is a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights, guaranteed under sections 34 & 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Articles 4, 5, 6 & 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Also part of the relief sought, the complainant seek a “declaration that the incarceration and continued confinement of the applicant since February 9, 2021 is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void”.

She also wants the court to order the respondents to fortwith cease and abstain from applying for a remand order against her over matters pertaining to financial crimes to which she has been in detention since the February 9, 2021.

Mrs R’ouke wants a sum of N100 million awarded against the police as “general, aggravated, special and exceptional damages, for the violation of her fundamental rights”.

Muyiwa Adejobi, the police spokesperson, is yet to respond to calls and text messages over the detention of Mrs R’ouke as of the time this report was filed.

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