The lawyer representing the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Femi Falana, has accused the State Security Service of insulting “the collective intelligence of Nigerians” by switching reasons for its continued violation of court orders for the release of Omoyele Sowore and others held by the agency.
Mr Falana who is also representing the detained leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zazaki, who has been held since 2015 by the SSS, said the agency should release “Nigerians languishing in unlawful custody without any further delay.”
Mr Falana was reacting to the recent claim by the SSS that Mr Sowore, a rights activist and politician, who was arrested in August along with another detainee, Olawale Bakare, had requested to remain in the custody of the SSS.
“Within a spate of one week the state security service (SSS) has adduced three contradictory reasons for not complying with the order of the federal high court for the immediate release Sowore and Bakare from illegal custody. In a public statement issued on 9/11/19 the SSS claimed that it had wanted to release the duo but for the fact that no one had showed up to receive them. When their lawyers and family members offered to receive them the sss disqualified them,” he said Saturday in a statement.
“The SSS turned round to say that it would only release the detainees to their sureties. Having found that it lacks the vires to vet sureties that have been verified by the federal high court the SSS has asked Nigerians to believe that Messrs Sowore and Bakare had applied to be detained in its protective and comfortable custody!
“Instead of apologising for exposing Nigeria to underserved odium the spokesperson of the security agency has asked us to believe that Sowore and Bakare, Mr. and Mrs Elzakzaky and Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) rather chose to be looked after by the SSS.
“Until the detainees and criminal suspects are allowed to regain their liberty the SSS should stop insulting the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people by attempting to justify the subversion of the rule of law,” Mr Falana said.
Mr Falana said he decided to respond to what he described as “the latest justification for such brazen abuse of power” because it saw the need to do so, as a counsel representing many of those held against court orders by the secret police.
“At various times in the past 4 years, the federal high court, the federal capital territory high court, the court of appeal and the ECOWAS court of justice admitted Col. Dasuki to bail pending trial. Upon meeting his bail conditions on 30/12/15 he was released by the Kuje prison authorities. However, the SSS operatives arrested him at the gate of the prison and he has since been detained in defiance of the orders of the aforementioned municipal and regional courts.”
Mr Falana also accused the information minister, Lai Mohammed, of spreading falsehood on the status of Mr El-Zakzaky.
“With respect to Elzakzaky’s the Information Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed had said on June 16, 2017 that “Elzakzaky is actually not in prison custody nor police custody nor SSS custody? El-Zakzaky is in a house with his family, this is the honest truth. The court ruled that he will be released after his house has been rebuilt. Nobody wants to accept El-Zakzaky as a neighbor. So we have been able to build a house, where do we release him to?” When were the Elzakzakys transferred to the custody of the SSS from the house built for them by the federal government?” Mr Falana asked.
“On another occasion, the federal government claimed that Mrs Zeinat Elzakzaky was not detained but that she chose the company of her detained husband, Mr. Elzakzaky. As if that was not enough Mr. Lai Mohammed disclosed that the federal government was spending N3.5 million to feed the Elzakzaky per month. Since the Elzakzakys have been detained illegally for the past 46 months the federal government must have wasted N168 million on feeding the couple!”
Mr Falana said the government had justified its detention of Mr El-Zakzaky and a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, by arguing that the freedom of the detainees was not more important than Nigeria’s national security which was allegedly threatened by the actions of the two.
He added that media publications on the threats by the government to report a federal high court judge, Taiwo Taiwo, to Nigeria’s judicial regulatory body, the National Judicial Council was evidence of the SSS conviction that it is right to continue detaining Mr Sowore.
“In the light of the foregoing, we wish to direct the attention of Mr. Bichi Mogaji, the Director-General of the State Security Service to section 287 of the Constitution which has imposed a duty on all authorities and persons to comply with the decisions of all competent courts in Nigeria,” Mr Falana said.