A team of lawyers representing Gabriel Ogbonna, the Aba-based human rights lawyer illegally detained by the State Security Service (SSS), has written a letter of appeal to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
A separate letter was also addressed to the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro.
This paper, on Thursday, reported how Mr Ogbonna has been held in the custody of the secret police for over two months despite court judgments ordering his release.
On March 24, over 20 policemen in company of Chief of Staff to the Abia Governor, Tony Agbazuere, and former Commissioner of Police, Ene Okon, stormed Mr Ogbonna’s chambers to arrest him.
He was arrested for posting articles criticising the Okezie Ikpeazu-led government in Abia State, via his social media page.
Shortly after the arrest of March 24, he was arraigned alongside another person for cybercrimes and publishing false and threatening messages through the internet against the Governor Ikpeazu in a magistrate court sitting in Umuahia.
However, because the magistrate court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, he was then remanded at a correctional facility in the state capital until April 28, when he was arraigned before the Federal High Court in Umuahia and was granted bail.
Mr Ogbonna was re-arrested by SSS operatives on his way out of the correctional facility in Umuahia on the same day. This was after he had perfected the bail conditions.
This paper learnt that the SSS moved Mr Ogbonna to its office in the state and subsequently, its headquarters in Abuja, where he has been in custody without any charges against him.
None of Mr Ogbonna’s friends, relatives or his legal representative has been allowed to visit him since he had been transferred to Abuja.
More so, all legal efforts to ensure the release of Mr Ogbonna from the SSS’s custody have been unsuccessful.
On June 29, the Federal High court in Umuahia ordered that the SSS release him unconditionally, and awarded N1.5 million damages in his favour.
Also, on July 6, in the suit challenging the infringement of Mr Ogbonna’s human rights filed in Abuja, the DSS refused to present him in the FCT High Court and the case was adjourned to July 17.
In reaction to the SSS’s plea to further adjourn the case last Friday, Justice Aninih of the FCT High Court granted bail to Mr Ogbonna on the conditions that he produce two sureties who have N20 million.
The Federal High Court, Umuahia, has, however, struck the Abia State’s case against Mr Ogbonna, following the failure and neglect by the police to produce him.
In the letters issued through Nkem Okoro and Co Chamber on Thursday, the lawyers requested the intervention of Messrs Malami and Usoro.
“We are a team of lawyers who have volunteered to offer our professional services to Emperor Gabriel Ogbonna Esq.”
The legal professionals narrated how the SSS have continued to flagrant disregard and flout court judgments.
“We, therefore, most passionately appeal to your esteemed office to urgently intervene in this case, by ensuring the immediate release of a lawyer professional colleague, who has been detained since 29 April 2020, for no known offence, by the Director-General State Security Service and the State Security Service, in Abuja,” the letter acknowledged by the NBA President read.
In the copy of the letter acknowledged by Mr Malami, the lawyers solicited his intervention, noting that Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law reigns supreme.
“No arm or agent of the government should be seen to be above the law. The conduct of the Director-General of the Department of the State Security Service by flagrantly disregarding and contemptible disobeying the judgment/order of the Federal High Court by which he was directed to release the Applicant forthwith, is to say the least, very shameful and regrettable.”
They added that the health of Mr Ogbonna is fast deteriorating with his lengthy and continued detention.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the notoriety of the SSS when it comes to disobeying court rulings and adherence to judicial processes.
Nevertheless, human rights activists and organisations have continued protests against the illegal detention, calling for the immediate release of Mr Ogbonna.
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