An attempt by the State Security Service to raid the residence of a federal judge, Mohammed Liman, in Port Harcourt early Saturday, resulted in a prolonged standoff that almost turned deadly, several officials have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The sources said the SSS clashed with the police as they tried unsuccessfully to gain access into Mr. Liman’s home. The SSS reportedly acted on a tip-off that the judge was in custody of $2 million cash.
The officials said at some point Governor Nyesom Wike, who arrived the scene shortly after the start of the operations, vowed that he would rather be killed than allow the SSS operatives access the judge’s home.
Mr. Wike later said in a statement that he would not allow such “impunity” take place under his watch as governor.
“He is not a criminal and he is not an armed robber,” he said of the judge. “If the person has committed an offence, invite him. It is only when he refuses to honour the invitation that you can adopt this commando style.”
Mr. Wike added: “It doesn’t matter what it will cost. When you talk about liberty, sacrifices must be made. We are not trying to stop an arrest. All we are saying is that things must be done decently and in line with the rule of law.”
Our sources said when SSS operatives arrived at the residence of the judge at Number 35 Forces Avenue in Port Harcourt, they were prevented from gaining entry.
As agents made efforts to enter the house, Mr. Liman reportedly contacted the governor, who promptly raced to the scene.
The governor reached out to the commissioner of police, Francis Odesanya, who arrived the scene with three truckloads of police men, an official said.
“When the commissioner arrived there and saw the SSS director, he did not withdraw. Instead, he sided with the governor and together they provided cover for the judge, against SSS agents,” one source said.
The officials said the standoff dragged on for hours, and later, under the cover of police, a vehicle left the building. SSS said it believed the vehicle conveyed the $2 million.
“As the vehicle left, SSS vehicle followed but was outmaneuvered,” the source said.
By 4 a.m., over three hours after the start of the operation, SSS agents withdrew from the scene after receiving instructions to do so.
The SSS alluded to that incident in its statement late Saturday.
The service said the operation was to recover $2 million from the judge’s home.
“In one of the States where the Service operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the Judge had Two Million United States Dollars ($2,000,000 USD) stashed in his house,” the SSS said while explaining its nationwide raid of senior judges’ homes.
“When he was approached for a due search to be conducted, he in concert with the State Governor, mobilised thugs against the Service team.
“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the governor.
“Unfortunately, the Judge and Governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency,” the SSS said.
The sources said Mr. Odesanya might have colluded with Mr. Wike to move the fund away from the house.
But both the spokesman to Mr. Wike, Oraye Franklyn, and the police spokesman in Rivers, Omoni Nnamdi, denied the allegations against their respective principals.
“If we are to assume that they are right, which court authorised the arrest of the judge and why at the dead of the night? Had the judge been formally invited?” Mr. Frankly said.
Mr. Nnamdi said the allegations were too dangerous to comprehend and called for caution.
“We only moved in to broker peace between the governor and the SSS people and there was no way the commissioner could have done such a thing,” Mr. Nnamdi said.
“We need to be careful when throwing up allegations that could cause a crisis.”