The State Security Service (SSS) has told the Federal High Court in Asaba on Friday that it arrested and detained Anthony Okolie, based on a directive from the presidency to investigate him over the use of a SIM card previously used by Hanan, President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter.
Mr Okolie was arrested in July 2019 and eventually detained for 10 weeks without trial despite the provision of the Nigerian law that mandates that a suspect not be detained for more than 48 hours by the police (or government agency) without bail or without charging the individual to court.
After his release, Mr Okolie through his lawyer, Tope Akinyode, sued Hanan, the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) and telecoms provider, MTN, over his ‘illegal detention’.
Mr Okolie is seeking an order to “compel the respondents to jointly or severally to pay the applicant the sum of N500 million as general and aggravated damages for the gross and unlawful violation of the applicant’s right to acquire moveable properties, freedom of movement and self dignity.”
Speaking at the hearing of the suit filed by Mr Okolie at the Federal High Court in Asaba on February 12, the president’s daughter, through her lawyer M.E. Sheriff, told the court Hanan would not be responding to the allegations “because there was no need.”
The judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, furiously responded saying: “What do you mean you haven’t seen a reason? Sheriff, how can you not see a reason? Somebody has accused you. Even if it is to say, ‘I didn’t do so’, can’t you respond? You’re saying you did not see a reason. Sheriff, what kind of thing is this?”
On his part, the SSS lawyer, E.E. Daobri, said “he did not receive the necessary documents from the SSS headquarters in Abuja on time, hence, could not file a counter-affidavit.”
Following the backlash from the judge, Hanan’s lawyer, Mr Sheriff, in a counter-affidavit filed on February 21, agreed that the MTN SIM card which caused the dispute was once used by her.
She, however, claimed not to be aware that any arrest was made by the SSS in her 20-paragraph affidavit obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
She said although she was not happy with the complaint from the public that someone else was using her former SIM card, but “I have never complained to the State Security Service or any law enforcement agency in Nigeria or outside the country to make arrest of anyone.”
The SSS has now deposed to an affidavit, explaining why it arrested and detained the suspect.
The SSS’ Claim
In the 35-paragraph affidavit, signed by an SSS official, S.M. Kayode, and obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the security agency said it received an official letter of instruction from the presidency dated July 5, 2019, upon which it acted.
In the affidavit, the SSS said the presidency’s letter indicated that Mr Okolie was parading himself as a member of the first family to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.
The SSS alleged that their investigation revealed that Mr Okolie attempted to defraud Ahmed Halidu, a member of the president’s family, before the former was arrested. The agency said Mr Okolie wrote a confessional statement admitting to the crime on July 24, 2019.
For 10 weeks at their custody, the SSS said nobody applied for Mr Okolie’s bail until one Ernesh Chukwuedo surfaced and he was released to him.
Also in the affidavit, SSS said it acted in the interest of national security.
Mr Okolie had earlier told PREMIUM TIMES that Hanan ordered his arrest and she was contacted thrice before he was eventually released.
Mr Akinyode, the lawyer to the accused, said the Nigerian constitution makes no provision of any kind for the “first family” and that the involvement of the presidency in this matter is a “disgraceful deployment of state apparatus for personal gains”.
“The “confessional statement” has no relevance to this suit whatsoever. There was no place he ever misrepresented to anybody that he is Buhari’s daughter. More so, he never received any money from anybody.”
“However, even if someone commits an offence – and there’s none that my client has committed – he must be charged to court within at most 48 hours. In this instance, the victim was detained for 10 weeks, his fundamental rights had been violated. Period.”
“All the things they wrote is just about putting up a useless defence where there’s none. His right has been violated. The SSS has on several occasions admitted that they ran a foul of the law because of national security. Should that be a ground to deprive a citizen of his fundamental human rights?” the lawyer said,
The matter is scheduled to come up March 3 before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba.