Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Department of State Services (DSS) on Tuesday invaded the office of a civil society organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), prompting the rights group to petition the National Assembly and all foreign embassies in the country and major world leaders to protest against the invasion of its office by armed operatives.
According to a statement signed by the National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group wondered why the operatives would invade its premises during a press conference.
Onwubiko however told THISDAY on the phone that the press conference was about the wanton killings by the Fulani herdsmen, which he said he suspected someone, possibly a journalist acting as a mole had hinted the DSS about.
He stated: “We write to bring to your notice the unsavory and unusual affront to constitutionalism that happened today in our office.
“At exactly 11.45a.m., barely 15 minutes to the commencement of a scheduled press conference on the theme of insecurity in Nigeria, a team of the Nigeria Secret Police known as DSS invaded our office and demanded to attend our media conference even when it was strictly a media event in which only few media representatives from the print and electronic outfits were invited by text messages. They didn’t however show any sign that they wanted to harm us physically,” Onwubiko said.
He noted that the Nigerian Constitution in Chapter four recognises the right to personal privacy; freedom of speech and freedom of association.
The rights group added that “although two of these armed DSS officials who identified themselves as Mr. Victor (DSS) and Ike (DSS) alongside a couple of others from the DSS head office and the FCT office said it was a “friendly visit,” we smelt a rat and we suspected that this might just be a cover to determine if we should be obstructed and arrested.”
He appealed to all the foreign embassies to call on the federal government to respect the fundamental human rights of Nigerians as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights.
He noted that, “We urge you to use your good offices to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to let all credible groups operate within the bounds of the law without executive intimidation and psychological threats which sometimes snowball into confrontation and arrest.”
Onwubiko therefore called on the foreign embassies to investigate the reasons for the unwarranted invasion of its private office and also assist in getting the Nigerian government to make commitment not to harass, intimidate or physically obstruct the enjoyment of all these fundamental rights.
Those who have received the petition, according to the group included: the National Assembly, Ambassador of the United State of America to Nigeria, Ambassador James F. Entwistle; the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Simon Shercliff, the Ambassador of Belgium to Nigeria, Ambassador Dirk Verheyen; the Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Zenner; the president of ECOWAS, Marcel Alain De Souza, the Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Arrion, among others.