A Nigerian-Canadian man is suing the country’s government after he was arrested by border agents and detained for 8 months – despite producing evidence of his citizenship.
Olajide Ogunye, 47, is seeking $10m in compensation from the Canadian government after he spent months incarcerated in what his lawyer has described as a “profoundly disturbing” case of mistaken identity.
Ogunye was approached by border agents and detained outside his Toronto home in June 2016, even though he produced citizenship papers and a government-issued health card.
The agents disputed the validity of the documents and brought him to a detention facility near Toronto Pearson airport, where they fingerprinted him and alleged his prints matched those of a fraudulent refugee claimant who was deported to Nigeria in the 1990s.
“It is shocking,” said Adam Hummel, Ogunye’s lawyer. “Even people who are having their citizenship revoked … are not detained like this.”
The results of the fingerprint analysis – which Hummel says were never shown to his client – were contradicted by numerous sworn affidavits by friends and neighbours who had known Ogunye for years.
Ogunye, who immigrated to Canada from Nigeria with his family and became a citizen in 1996, was prevented from making contact with family members. Traumatized by his detention, he was placed on suicide watch.
“One time, for the whole month, I was crying nonstop. I was crying continuously,” he told the CBC. Ogunye was released in February 2017.
Hummel and his client charge that the government breached Ogunye’s constitutional rights; he filed the case in Ontario superior court on 30 May.