A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the State Security Service to reinstate its former Director-General, Kayode Are, to his Lagos home, pending the outcome of a suit he filed in November.
In a ruling Thursday, Judge Mohammed Yunusa ordered the SSS to remove all barricades and blockades denying Mr. Are and his family members access to the Ikoyi home.
He adjourned till December 15 for a report of compliance.
Mr. Are had filed a suit before the court on November 13 praying the court to direct the respondents and their agents to reinstate him and his family into the residence.
Joined as respondents in the suit are the SSS and its director-general.
On Wednesday, armed SSS operatives stormed Mr. Are’s home ejecting his family and throwing out his properties.
Mr. Are told PREMIUM TIMES the operatives pulled down the doors, chased his family away, without giving them time to remove any belonging.
The secret police took the action despite a court injunction served on it a day earlier barring it from forcing Mr. Are out of the Ikoyi residence.
Allocated for life
Mr. Are, a retired army Colonel, served as DG of SSS between 1999 and 2007.
As part of the privileges enjoyed by former heads of the agency after their term of office, they are allocated retirement homes in any city of their choice in Nigeria.
An internal memo addressed to Mr. Are and seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed how the Ikoyi home was allocated to him “for life after which the premises shall revert back to the State Security Service.”
“The Allottee shall pay all taxes, rates, duties, assessments, imposition and outgoings whatsoever now or hereafter payable in respect of the premises,” said the memo dated 15th October, 2010.
“The Allottee shall keep the premises and any additions thereto and the fixtures in good condition and repair.
“The Allottee shall insure the premises against damage by fire in any insurance company and sum approved by the Service.”
The memo further stated that the allottee should allow the SSS or its workmen access to the property at all reasonable time during the tenure of the allocation.
It also said that the allottee should not let any part of the property, or erect any structure without first seeking and obtaining a written consent and approval of the Service.
Contravention of any of the conditions, according to the memo, would entitle the Service the right to withdraw the allocation and take possession of the premises.
“This allocation letter does not transfer title of the premises to the Allottee, but only the right to reside therein in his lifetime, subject to the conditions mentioned above,” the memo added.
However, shortly after Lawan Daura, the current DG of the SSS, assumed duties, he wrote to Mr. Are directing him to vacate the property, saying the allocation to him was questionable.
Although he failed to provide details, Mr. Are had told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Daura had long marked him for poor treatment because of the disciplinary measures he took against him (Daura) while he (Are) was his boss in the Service.
In a letter dated September 16th, less than three months after Mr. Daura was appointed, the SSS revoked the allocation of the Ikoyi home to Mr. Are.
The letter stated that the earlier allocation to Mr. Are in 2010 was contrary to the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as well as a long standing controversy surrounding the status of the property.
“In light of the above, I am directed to inform you that the allocation has been revoked due to the ongoing re-organization of the Service, affecting it’s personnel and assets. Moreso that the decision of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) conveyed to the Service vide letter SH/COS/92576 dated 3rd January, 2007 has not been vacated.
“In view of the foregoing, you are to give up vacant possession of the property on or before 15th October, 2015.”
One week later, Mr. Are responded to the SSS’ eviction letter, noting that as a former DG, he ought to be treated with some respect.
“Courtesy demands that I be given fair hearing before a decision is taken on a matter which affects me,” Mr. Are wrote in his response dated September 23 and addressed to Mr. Daura.
“I deserve better treatment. I made and will continue to make contributions to the development of the State Security Service and the Intelligence Community. My prayer is that you will get as many letters of commendation during your tenure as I did during mine.”
According to Mr. Are, the decision of the Federal Executive Council which was referred to stated that ‘Heads of Security Intelligence Agencies currently enjoying the privilege of free housing on retirement should release the properties to the Federal Government’ had been overturned by a subsequent administrative action of the Service and the Presidency.
Mr. Are said that A.A. Gadzama, who championed the events leading to the decision, was the first to demand the privilege on his retirement in 2010.
“To rectify the anomaly, the Management of the Service, collectively, allocated 10 Halle Selassie Road Asokoro Abuja to him, and 50 Alexander Road Ikoyi to me. It is malicious, irrational and unacceptable that Gadzama retains his privilege while mine is revoked.”
He added that the President Umar Yar-Adua administration, which made the decision, later realized its obligation to provide post-service accommodation to former heads of the SSS and therefore offered to sell the houses to three affected persons in 2008.
Peter Nwaoduah bought his Service quarters in Asokoro, Abuja, allocated to him in 1999 while A.K. Horsfall bought his Service residence in Ikoyi, Lagos.
“Only I was denied the right to buy where I lived at 50 Alexander, Ikoyi. Neither did I buy any other Federal Government property in Abuja or Lagos like my colleagues and subordinates did,” Mr. Are said.
“To attempt to displace me and deny me my privilege for the third time is vindictive, unlawful and unjust.”
Mr. Are further said the Service’s ultimatum to vacate the property in less than one month, without a previous notice, is impractical and unreasonable.
“It took 11 months from the date of allocation to renovate and put the premises in habitable condition, because of the dilapidated state I met it,” he said.
“I have been in possession of the property for five years obeying the terms of allocation. As a reminder I rebuilt the property in 2002 and used additional personal and family resources to make it suitable for my post-service residence. I have thus invested a lot in the property, then and now.
“The obligation of the Service to provide me accommodation for life, by its convention, operational at the time I was appointed in 1999, and stated explicitly on its own terms in 2010, with a similar privilege extended to my successor, cannot be abrogated, selectively, by fiat.”