THE Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday, failed to produce the 12 persons that were arrested at the residence of Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Adeyemo, fondly called Sunday Igboho, before the Federal High Court, in Abuja.
Rather, the security agency filed a 16-paragraphed counter-affidavit before the court, wherein it alleged that the detained persons, alongside Igboho, were known to have “called for the violent ejection of herdsmen and threatened violence to perceived enemies of peace and well being of Yoruba.”
It further told the court that Igboho and his supporters, including the applicants in custody, “are suspected to be stockpiling arms to take over the South Western states in the country.
“That investigation in the matter has assumed wider dimension and sophistication, hence the respondents sought and obtained a detention order empowering it to legally detain the applicants for 14 days, pending the conclusion of the investigation”, DSS added in the counter-affidavit that was deposed to by one of its operatives, Abdullahi Magaji.
The deponent averred that security operatives had, after a gun battle that took place on the day Igboho’s residence was raided, recovered 7 AK-47 rifles, 3 pump action rifles, one stun gun, 221 live rounds of 55.56mm ammunition, one, 295 live rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, one jack knife and 19 walkie talkies.
The counter-affidavit reads: “That the activities of the Applicants in custody constitute a threat to the national security of Nigeria.
“That any attempt to grant the Applicants bail at this stage of investigation may jeopardize ongoing investigation in the matter.
“That the Respondents will not hesitate to formally charge the Applicants to a court or bring them before the court after investigation.”
The court had in a ruling last Friday, ordered the DSS to produce the 12 arrested persons who have been in detention since July 2, before it on Thursday.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu gave the order following fundamental right enforcement suit their lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, brought before the court.
The judge said the order for production of the Applicants was to enable the court to determine the circumstances surrounding their arrest, and for the DSS to show cause why they should not be released on bail, either conditionally or unconditionally.
The 12 persons the court ordered the DSS to produce before it are Abdullateef Ofeyagbe, Amoda Babatunde (Aka Lady K), Tajudeen Erinoyen, Diakola Ademola, Abideen Shittu, and Jamiu Noah.
Others are Ayobami Donald, Adelabe Usman, Oluwafelumi Kunle, Raji Kazeem, Taiwo Opeyemi and Bamidele Sunday.
Counsel to the Applicants told the court the DSS kept them incommunicado since Cited as Respondents in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/647/2021, are the DSS and its Director-General.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings in the matter, yesterday, counsel to the Respondents, Mr. I. Awo, insisted that only three associates of Igboho, who were affected by the order of the court, are currently in its custody.
Awo told the court that only the 2nd, 4th and 12th Applicants, Amoda Babatunde (aka Lady K), Diokola Adeyemo Ademola and Bamidele Sunday, are in its custody.
He said the DSS had on July 27, handed one of those it arrested at Igboho’s residence, Abdullateef Ofeyagbe, listed as the 1st Applicant, to the Police for his release.
However, counsel to the Applicants, Olajengbesi, faulted Awo’s claim and insisted that all his clients were being held by the DSS.
Olajengbesi said: “My lord, this apparent affront on the authority of the court cannot be justified by the Respondent”, he argued, saying it was wrong for the DSS to arrest and detain the Applicants for over 25 days, and still insist that its investigations are ongoing.
“It is envisaged under the law that the investigation must have been conducted even before the arrest was made. The Applicants enjoy the presumption of innocence under our Constitution.”
Relying on section 32(1) (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, Olajengbesi, urged the court to go ahead and admit the Applicants on bail unconditionally.
He said: “This is to show to the Respondent that this court is above it, and also to show the world that this court has the inherent powers to protect the liberty of citizens. Granting the Applicants bail will not in any way affect the investigation of this case.”
Justice Egwuatu berates DSS
After he had listened to both sides, Justice Egwuatu berated the DSS for not complying with the court order which it acknowledged was served on it, stressing that such conduct was detrimental to the image of the agency.
The Judge said: “The court takes the issue of liberty of citizens very serious, and even the Supreme Court has emphasized this point repeatedly. It can be anybody tomorrow.”
Consequently, he ordered the DSS to produce the Applicants in court on Monday.
DSS action arrogant – Ilana Omo Oodua
Reacting to the action of the DSS, the Ilana Omo Oodua, IOO, described it as arrogance and impunity.
IOO’s Legal Adviser, Mr. Olasupo Ojo said: “It is very audacious of them (DSS) to come to court with such arrogance and impunity and begin to taunt the court that they have just three persons with them. And that they are detaining them because they have the order of a Magistrate Court to remand them. A Magistrate Court is an inferior court to the High Court which gave the order and the DSS is an inferior government agency to the High Court, which is a constitutional creation.
“So, it is the height of impunity and lawlessness for the DSS to come to court without obeying the express order of the court which is couched in such a way that even a primary six student will understand it.”
The court ought not to have listened to them at all and I want to thank the judge for doing the right thing, for upholding the rule of law, for upholding the integrity of the judiciary by insisting that the court order must be obeyed. That is the right thing to do. I hope the Federal Government will direct the DSS to stop this lawlessness and learn to obey court orders. They are not superior to the law, they are under the law.