Group berates DSS over continued detention of Abia lawyer, Akwa Ibom journalist; demands immediate release

Posted by News Express | 28 May 2020 | 1,011 times

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A rights group, Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Department of State Security (DSS) to release Abia State lawyer, Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna, detained illegally in flagrant disobedience to court orders.

A statement signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director of RULAAC, said that the continued unlawful detention, incommunicado of Abia State-based lawyer, Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna, by the SSS in fragrant disobedience to a High Court order granting him bail is a despicable act of lawlessness and reckless abuse of power.

It noted that the DSS has now established itself as a lawless organisation with an ignoble pattern of engaging in politically-motivated arrest and indefinite detention incommunicado, of government critics, in disobedience to court orders, adding: “The President must, at this time, intervene and save our democracy from being derailed by the DSS. It's time for the President to curtail the excesses of the SSS and call its leaders to order.

“RULAAC is informed that Emperor Ogbonna was initially arrested in his office by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) and armed policemen and had been in detention since March 24, 2020. He was first taken to the Abia State Police Command where he was confronted with a petition written against him alleging that he published falsehood against the Governor of Abia State, and that the Governor swore to an oath at the Ancient Harashima.

“He was eventually arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court which remanded him in custody. He was later charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia and was admitted to bail by the said court.

“Ogbonna perfected the conditions of his bail and was released from the Correctional Centre on April 28, 2020, but he was again arrested immediately by the Abia State Director of SSS who later transferred him to SSS headquarters in Abuja.

“The DSS is reported to have claimed that Ogbonna was re-arrested for another complaint against him, different from his alleged false claims against the Abia State Governor. But even if this were to be true, his continued detention beyond the constitutionally permissible duration still makes his detention unlawful and a flagrant violation of his constitutional rights to liberty, presumption of innocence, human dignity and due process.

“If the DSS believe they have any reasonable grounds to re-arrest him, or credible charges against him, they ought to have promptly handed him over to the Police for Prosecution, in accordance with due process.”

The statement further said: “The lawless activities of the DSS further diminish Nigeria’s stature across the globe. The use of the DSS by the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, to arrest and indefinitely detain one of his fellow Abia citizens, and denying his family and lawyers the right to visit him for nearly a month is condemnable and unacceptable in a civilised and democratic society.

“It is not only illegal, but also malicious and highhanded for the SSS to refuse to release Emperor Ogbonna or charge him to court and to also refuse his lawyers and family access to visit him despite his precarious health condition. Emperor Ogbonna’s lawyer has disclosed that he is sick. Yet, the SSS will not allow his family, lawyer and doctor to visit him. His family is seriously worried about the condition of his health and safety.

“His wife who is in her 8th month of pregnancy says her husband’s continued detention, her not being allowed access to him and her anxiety about his condition are impacting seriously on her condition. His lawyer only sees him when the SSS decides. His wife said the DSS told her not to bother coming to see her husband unless they invite her.

“The Governor’s spokespersons claim that Emperor is no longer being held by the state government but by the SSS. But Emperor’s lawyer has disclosed that it was the Chief of Staff to Governor Ikpeazu, Dr A.C.B Agbazuere who led the team of SSS operatives which re-arrested his client after the Aba branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) secured his release on the 28th of April.

“The state government, through the Chief of Staff, is using the SSS to continuously keep Emperor behind bars even after a court of competent jurisdiction has granted him bail. This is the rawest form of abuse of power.

“It is disturbing how the SSS has abandoned its responsibility of surveillance and intelligence gathering and turned itself into a willing tool in the hands of politician for oppression, injustice and persecution of political opponents and critics and for settling scores.

“The SSS has unabashedly made itself available to many state governors and other public office holders who have turned themselves into emperors and elevated themselves above the law.”

Also recounting other areas that the SSS has acted beyond its powers, RULAAC said: “It is not only in Abia State. In Akwa Ibom State, the family of Kufre Carter, sports reporter detained in the facility of the SSS, Akwa Ibom State, has been prevented from seeing him, according to his lawyer who is also not allowed to see his client. The DSS has refused to release the reporter, despite being granted bail by the court.

“Mr Carter, a sports reporter with a local radio station, XL 106.9 FM, Uyo, was arrested by the SSS on April 27 and charged with defamation for “castigating” the Commissioner for Health in Akwa Ibom State, Dominic Ukpong, over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.”

The statement declared: “The  submission by Femi Falana, in his Memorandum to the Senate during its probe of the Invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja and Disruption of Judicial Proceedings by the Operatives of the State Security Service bears repeating here:

Referring to the National Security Agencies Act, which established the SSS, Falana stated:

“It is also to be noted that the SSS lacks the power to arrest and detain any person. The functions of the SSS are clearly spelt out in Section 2(3)(a), (b), and (c) and (4) of the Act.”





Source: News Express

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