Nigerians condemn ‘illegal’ detention of opposition leader by SSS

Babatunde Gbadamosi

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Wednesday joined other Nigerians to mount pressure on the State Security Service to release Babatunde Gbadamosi, an opposition party chieftain who was arrested nearly a week ago.

Mr. Gbadamosi is a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos and a critic of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He has so far spent one week in custody without information about his incarceration from the SSS.

Since last week, his wife, Sade, insisted that SSS remained in possession of her husband, but all efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to independently verify this proved abortive. The agency had kept silent despite daily national news reports about the politician’s arrest.

The police categorically denied having anything to do with Mr. Gbadamosi’s incarceration.

“We don’t have him in our custody,” police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mrs. Gbadamosi’s account said her husband, with whom she runs a real estate business in Lagos, was arrested on February 22 shortly after his arrival at the Lagos field office of the secret police around 11:00 a.m. He was transferred to Abuja about two hours later, his wife, Sade, told PREMIUM TIMES the same day.

The night before, operatives, numbering six, had stormed the residence of the Gbadamosis in Ibeju-Lekki, in an apparent attempt to whisk him away, his wife told PREMIUM TIMES last week. But they were denied entry into the estate for want of valid warrant of arrest, she added.

For the ensuing seven days, SSS failed to charge him before the court, in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution which stipulates a maximum of 48 hours detention before suspects are arraigned, except with a court order.

The secret police also ignored mounting public outcry and efforts by his wife and lawyers to know his situation.

Mrs. Gbadamosi said she has strong indications to believe her husband is being held over a video he uploaded on Facebook last month.

In the video, Mr. Gbadamosi condemned alleged nepotism and recklessness of the Central Bank of Nigeria in allocation of scarce U.S. dollars in its foreign exchange activities.

But Mr. Falana and many others said authorities should immediately release Mr. Gbadamosi if they won’t charge him to court.

“By holding him incommunicado, the SSS has violated the fundamental rights of the detainee to personal liberty and fair hearing,” Mr. Falana said.

Mr. Falana said he is “compelled to demand” for Mr. Gbadamosi’s “immediate and unconditional release” after being duly briefed about his ordeal.

“In the alternative, the SSS should charge him to court forthwith if there is evidence that he has committed any criminal offence known to law.”

Mr. Falana said the SSS’ actions of illegal detention was a throwback to the military era.

“Even under the defunct military junta, the arrest and detention of political detainees and economic saboteurs were justified by the military dictators under preventive detention decrees.

“Notwithstanding that the obnoxious decrees have been repealed, the SSS has continued to breach the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people in utter breach of the relevant provisions of the Constitution which have guaranteed them,” he stated.

Over the weekend, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, lampooned the SSS for the poor treatment meted out to Mr. Gbadamosi who acted as a responsible citizen and honoured the invitation from the secret police.

“It is only in a banana republic that someone will honour invitation of security agency, only for him to be bundled into any available plane and moved from Lagos to Abuja without telling anyone what his offences were,” the governor said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gbadamosi’s lawyers filed a motion at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights to freedom, liberty and life.

Although the court was yet to communicate hearing date for the application, Nigerians are using the social media to press for Mr. Gbadamosi’s release.

The campaign, which is being coordinated under the #FreeBOG hashtag, is being led by his daughter, Femi Gbadamosi, who said her father’s detention highlighted SSS’ penchant for illegality, calling on Nigerians to speak up for her family.

“In Nigeria, you’re allowed to detain someone for up to two days with no charge,” Ms. Gbadamosi said on Twitter. “Anything over that without charging is illegal.”

“If you can do absolutely anything about this, even just a small tweet or a phone call, please do. What SSS are doing is illegal.”

“Since that day, my mum or his lawyers have not been able to see him or speak to him. We are extremely worried and fear for his life,” she added.

Audu Maikori, the CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment who was himself detained for online speech two weeks ago, also joined calls for Mr. Gbadamosi’s release.

Some other Nigerians have called on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to weigh in on the matter.

By Wednesday afternoon, concerns about Mr. Gbadamosi’s health crept into the agitation.

An online petition that was created for Mr. Gbadamosi’s release had garnered 333 supporters as at 3:37 p.m. Wednesday.

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