I believe that most persons who support the undemocratic assault on the judiciary by the Department of State Services do so because they are not privy to the dirty conspiracy underlying these actions. Most Nigerians are not conversant with the sustained assault of the DSS against Rivers State and the mandate freely extended by Rivers people to Governor Nyesom Wike. This latest assault is simply another lawless attempt to whittle down the popularity of the People’s Governor in the country.
It is a deep-seated illegal onslaught on Rivers State premised on the lust for Rivers resources by leaders of the All Progressives Congress, who illegally benefitted from Rivers funds during the 2015 general election campaigns. Having tasted free funds from the immediate past administration, these APC officials are determined to go to any length to destabilise Rivers State.
The anti-democratic and anti-Rivers invasions by the DSS started in October last year at the height of the proceedings of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, which sat in Abuja. The DSS, Police and Army detailed security clowns to testify against the election of Wike. These operatives under cross examination all faltered as they admitted that they did not directly participate in the election. They admitted that their testimonies were based on rumours.
However, when Wike and PDP subpoenaed the senior security personnel, who directly provided security for the April 11, 2015 governorship election, armed DSS operatives stormed the venue of the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal in Abuja. Their objective was to stop these security personnel from mounting the witness box. They claimed they had orders to arrest the security witnesses.
Heavily armed DSS operatives stormed the tribunal to arrest a retired subpoenaed commander, Emmanuel Philips, who testified that the election was peaceful, credible and without cases of violence. They could not arrest the retired commander as lawyers and journalists demanded for arrest warrant, which they failed to produce.
A day before, the same DSS made an attempt to arrest an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr Akuki Kenneth, who testified that the Rivers State governorship election was peaceful , but was resisted by lawyers.
Having failed to stop these security officers from testifying, the DSS used pro-APC online and mainstream media outfits to circulate disparaging false allegations against Wike.
Following the failure that met the desperate attempt of the DSS to abduct a Federal High Court judge in Port Harcourt on October 8, the same organisation has approached her media associates to hatch and circulate false reports.
I read on Premium Times – later shared by Sahara Reporters – the claim that the DSS wanted to arrest a judge of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt because he allegedly gave a judgement that favoured the Ahmed Makarfi-led Peoples Democratic Party National Caretaker Committee. These online media outfits are quoting “competent security sources” as premise for whatever illogical falsehood they want to spin. However, each time you read these outlets, know that it is part of the desperate thinking of the APC.
One fact is now out in the open, sacked former PDP national chairman received backing from the APC, hence the venomous reprisal by the DSS. This has been explained by the APC media brought in to do damage control for the party.
However, the fundamental aim of Wike as regards his timely intervention was to sustain the rule of law as far as Rivers State is concerned. As the duly elected chief executive and chief security officer of the state, he had a responsibility to ensure that due process was followed.
The statement by the national chairman of APC, when he received the Rivers State APC governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, lays credence to the party’s desperation. Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said: “We have lost very important resource-rich states to the PDP. No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country.”
Since then, the APC leadership both at the federal and Rivers State levels have sponsored attacks on the judiciary, questioning the validation of the election of Wike by the Supreme Court.
Despite the sponsorship of destructive propaganda against Wike , he has continued to stand on the truth, promoting the principles of the rule of law and due process .
Upon assumption of duty as governor, Wike revived the state judiciary that was left comatose by the immediate past governor of Rivers State. The governor has also stabilised the judiciary by ensuring peaceful transition of the leadership of the state judiciary on the premise of the laid down succession rule. The Rivers State Judiciary now enjoys financial autonomy, with massive infrastructural development taking place in the courts.
Welfare of judicial officers has been given top priority, while the state government recently handed over the ultra-modern NBA Law Centre to the Port Harcourt branch of the NBA to improve research and the rule of law in the state. Wike’s promotion of the rule of law is known to all. His defence of due process is always in the interest of the state and the society. As Rivers State chief security officer, he has always worked hard to protect all residents of Rivers State.
Addressing the people of Rivers State last penultimate Saturday night during a special dinner for the management and players of Rivers United at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike said the weak blackmail of the DSS will not lessen the crime they have committed against the Nigerian state by assaulting the judiciary. He noted that nobody was deceived by the concocted figures being circulated by the DSS.
He said: “Their blackmail stories will not move me. They will concoct all kinds of stories to justify this undemocratic illegality perpetrated against the judiciary. It is really unfortunate that DSS would concoct a false defence that $2million (that is N900million) was found in the house of the judge. It is unfortunate that the DSS is coming up with flimsy excuses. “
It would be recalled that the governor and the DSS Operatives had their encounter outside the gate of the residence. It is therefore ridiculous that the DSS remained outside to declare that N900 million was found in the residence.
The governor noted that while he did not condone corruption, he will never support any process targeted at ruining the nation’s judiciary. He stated that the National Judicial Council had the responsibility to discipline erring and corrupt judges, after which indicted judicial officers are handed over to the relevant law enforcement agencies for prosecution. The governor said the police, army and other paramilitary agencies had their respective processes for the discipline of erring and corrupt officers.
“In the police, erring and corrupt policemen are first given orderly room trial, sacked and then appropriately prosecuted. For Judicial officers, the DSS has no role,” he said. Wike added: “This impunity must stop. I am not in support of any judicial officer being involved in corruption. What we are saying is that the right things must be done. We must not do things that will jeopardise our hard earned democracy.”
Many other well-meaning Nigerians and groups have insisted on the rule of law. The general agreement is that corruption must be fought within the ambit of the law.
NJC said after a marathon meeting that the council “expresses its grave concern on the recent invasion of the residences and arrest of some serving and suspended judicial officers by the Department of State Services; and condemned the action in its entirety.
“Viewed the action as a threat to the independence of the judiciary, which portends great danger to our democracy; and also considered the action as a clear attempt by the DSS to humiliate, intimidate, denigrate and cow the judiciary.”
The NBA at the end of his second crisis management meeting on October 13 declared, “That the NBA reiterates in unmistakeable terms its commitment to the fight against corruption and commits itself to collaborate with the federal government in bringing culprits to justice, whether judges or ordinary people. However, we will only do this within the ambit of the law and in accordance with due process.”
It was the great act of courage by the Rivers State governor on Saturday, October 8, 2016 that saved the day for the nation’s judiciary. Otherwise, by now, operatives of the DSS would have hunted down all judicial officers believed to be impartial and not dancing to expected tunes. It was that singular act that brought the entire illegality to the national front burner. Otherwise, the Nigerian people would have been subjected to an overdose of media trial, which will eventually destroy one of the most important structures of democracy.
Those who know Wike well understand that he is not moved by falsehood and propaganda. The actions of the DSS will not stop the governor from defending the rule of law. He has the constitutional responsibility to promote and defend due process, rule of law and constitutional democracy. So far, he has lived up to the expectations of the people in this regard. He has moved Rivers State away from the days of impunity.
The October 8 action of Wike disseminated one message unequivocally: “Never again will anyone, no matter his connection and wealth be allowed to drag Rivers State back to the days of impunity.”
––Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.