Gabriel Ogbonna, the Abia-based lawyer who has spent over three months in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS), has filed a motion on notice against the agency’s Director-General, Yusuf Bichi.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Ogbonna has been held in the custody of the secret police for over three months despite court judgments ordering his release.
In March, the lawyer was arrested for posting articles criticising the government of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in Abia State, via his social media page.
Shortly after the arrest, he was arraigned before a magistrate court in Umuahia alongside another person for publishing false and threatening messages through the internet against Mr Ikpeazu.
However, because the magistrate court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, he was 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 rearrested 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 charge against him.
None of Mr Ogbonna’s friends, relatives or his legal representative has been allowed to visit him since he was transferred to Abuja.
More so, all legal efforts to ensure his release have been unsuccessful.
On June 29, the Federal High Court in Umuahia ordered the SSS to release him unconditionally and awarded N1.5 million damages in his favour.
The court also struck out Abia State’s case against Mr Ogbonna, following the failure and neglect by the police to produce him.
Contempt of court
In the motion filed on Monday, Mr Ogbonna through his lawyers, Nkem Okoro and Monday Ubani, asked the Abuja High Court to compel the SSS Director-General to release him.
The lawyers hinged the motion on the Umuahia court judgment and previous cases of contempt.
“An order of court, no matter the fundamental vice attaching thereto, remains legally binding and valid until set aside by due process of law,” a copy of the court documents partly read.
“The law in this instance is clear that it is settled that it is the unqualified obligation of every person against or in respect of whom an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction to obey it unless and until that order discharged and this the more so, where the person affected by the order believes it to be irregular or void.
“In so far as the order exists, it must be obeyed to the letter. See Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu & Anor. (1986),” the lawyers cited.
“We must humbly urge this honourable court to grant this application as prayed as the Applicant has established by credible evidence the existence of a valid order of this honourable court, the service of same on the 1st Respondent who were represented by a team of lawyers in the matter at trial court. The Applicant has also established the refusal and neglect of the 1st Respondent to obey a valid order of this honourable court.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the notoriety of the SSS in disobeying court rulings and judicial processes.
The publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, Shiite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, were held by the agency despite being granted bail by the courts in separate cases.
Although Messrs Sowore and Dasuki were eventually freed in December 2019, Mr El-Zakzaky is still in detention.