The five staff of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who were detained by operatives of the State Security Services, SSS, will spend the weekend in jail after the latter ignored the judge’s order to produce them in court.
Following the inability of the SSS to produce the detainees on Friday, the judge adjourned till Monday.
Chinedu Atuche, Fayemi Olaposi, Augustine Onuchukwu, Ebun Ilori, and Esther Enemy we were arrested last Saturday after SSS operatives, accompanied by police officers, raided a building which the APC said was its data office at Allen Avenue, Lagos.
On Wednesday, Mr. Yunusa ordered the SSS and the Nigerian police to produce the detainees in court today.
On Friday, the detained staff were not in court.
There was also no representative of the Nigeria police.
Peter Okerinmodun, counsel to the SSS, said the agency was unaware of the court’s order, despite the applicants’ lawyer providing a proof of service to his employer.
“My appearance today is from what I read in newspapers. One newspaper said the matter came up at Ikeja (high court),” Mr. Okerinmodu said, in response to a question from the judge on why he was in court.
“I made contact with (SSS) headquarters to ascertain the authenticity. They said there was no service on them. Even as at this morning, nobody has confirmed. So I was not briefed.”
Earlier, Yemi Osibajo, counsel to the APC, told the court that both the police and the SSS were duly served, but the latter refused to accept service at their Lagos office.
“The first respondent (the Nigerian police) we served here (Lagos) and in Abuja. We also served the second respondent (SSS)…. In pursuant to the orders of this court, same processes were served in Abuja and they were accepted. Proof of service is in the court’s file,” Mr. Osibajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and former Lagos State Attorney General, said.
“The SSS ought today, in obedience of the orders of my lord, to produce the five applicants.”
Mr. Okerinmodun requested for a short adjournment to enable him “sort myself out.”
“I want to get across to Abuja whether they have collected the service,” said the lawyer.
“We are never known for disobeying my lord’s orders.”
Mr. Osibajo expressed reservations at the SSS counsel’s claims, noting that the judge’s orders were unambiguous.
“We are just worried that these individuals have been in detention since Saturday.”
The judge said he believed Mr. Okerinmodun because he “had been a good lawyer” in his court.
He adjourned the matter till Monday to enable counsel to the second respondent to comply with the orders of the court.
The applicants – the APC and the detained staff – had filed an action before the court two days ago seeking an enforcement of their fundamental rights.
The SSS had justified its action by claiming that their raid was based on a petition it received alleging “unwholesome activities” inside the building at the location.
“Based on this information, the service placed the building under surveillance and having been convinced that some unwholesome activities were going on in the building, it undertook a raid of the premises,” the SSS said in a statement Sunday.
In addition to the arrested staff, documents and computer hard drives were also confiscated by the operatives.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Yunusa granted the applicants’ requests by ordering that the detained staff be produced before the court.
The judge also ordered the SSS to unseal the building where the arrest took place. He also granted an interim injunction restraining them from further shutting the building or taking any step in connection with the property pending the determination of the substantive suit.