DSS as a Law unto Itself

DSS as a Law unto Itself

The spokesman of the Department of State Services, Dr. Peter Afunanya, claimed that what lawyers described as an act of lawlessness displayed by the personnel of the agency at the premises of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi last Tuesday, does not in any way reflect the professional disposition of the agency. Ejiofor Alike,however, reports that contrary to the claim, the DSS has gained notoriety for violating the rule of law and disrespect for not only the judiciary and the legislature, but also the individual rights of Nigerians

In what lawyers and many other Nigerians have described as another act of lawlessness, the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) on Tuesday beat up a squadron commander of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) at the premises of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

The DSS officers beat up the NCoS officer when he tried to resist their attempt to take the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele from him.

The operatives brazenly manhandled the senior correctional officer in whose custody Justice Nichola Oweibo had ruled that the former CBN governor should be, pending the perfection of his N20 million bail for alleged illegal possession of firearms.

In his reaction, the DSS spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya in a press statement described the incident as unfortunate.

He, however, claimed that the behaviour of the operatives does not in any way reflect the professional disposition of the DSS, insisting that the agency did not and would never encourage such an incident.

The DSS spokesman also promised an investigation, which many Nigerians believe is the usual ploy by the leadership of the security agencies to calm tension over the misdemeanor of their personnel so that the matter can be swept under the carpet.

Afunanya, however, admitted that the personnel from both agencies exhibited “undue overzealousness.”

But contrary to his claim that DSS has respect for the judiciary, last Tuesday’s show of shame by the operatives of the agency was not the first time that they showed their disrespect for the judiciary and human rights.

Many lawyers view the latest incident as a reflection of the unprofessional disposition of the DSS in recent years.

In his first meeting with Service Chiefs and heads of security and intelligence agencies, President Bola Tinubu had warned that working at cross purposes would no longer be condoned, but such warning appears not to be for the DSS. 

The agency had earlier on May 30, 2023 stormed the Ikoyi, Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and prevented officials of the commission from gaining access in what many described as a show of its superior fire power, the same way the agency attempted to demonstrate its superiority over the NCoS last Tuesday.

Overzealous operatives of the DSS had always resorted to self-help, intimidation, lawlessness and impunity in handling other Nigerians.

The agency had in November 2015 stormed the Asokoro, Abuja residence of a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) where they laid a siege for 25 days until he was rearrested.

Before the invasion of Dasuki’s residence, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court had on November 3, 2015 granted his request for his travel document to be released in order for him to travel abroad to take care of his deteriorating health.

After detaining the former NSA for several years, DSS has not successfully convinced the court to put him in jail for any offence.

Also, in August 2018, masked operatives of the DSS had once barricaded the gates to the National Assembly complex and shut out lawmakers.

This act of disrespect for the legislature as an arm of government forced the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sack the then Director General of the DSS, Lawal Daura.

Also, in another show of disrespect for the judiciary, DSS operatives had stormed Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu’s Federal High Court in Abuja to rearrest the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore in December 2019, less than 24 hours after the judge had released him from illegal custody.

Operatives of the agency had also invaded the homes of judges in 2016 and 2017, all in an alleged bid to cow the judiciary.

DSS operatives’ latest act of impunity has attracted condemnations by lawyers.

In his reaction, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana called on President Tinubu to sanction the DSS officials involved in the show of shame.

Falana accused the DSS officials of brazenly disobeying the orders of the Ikoyi Federal High Court.

Falana noted that “for daring to comply with the orders of the Federal High Court, officials of the correctional centre were attacked by gun-toting officers of the DSS.”

Also reacting, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) had blamed the overzealousness or excesses of personnel of both agencies for the incident which he described as “despicable.”

But many lawyers have accused Maikyau of not specifically condemning the DSS for the desecration of the court premises and disobedience of a subsisting court order.

A former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, described Maikyau’s reaction as “shameful.”

Odinkalu wondered why Maikyau chose to describe what happened in the court as a case of two fighting.

Also reacting, another senior lawyer, Mr. Mutalubi Adebayo Ojo (SAN) hinted that Maikyau’s reaction was evasive and did not pointedly condemn the infraction by DSS.

 “The greatest misconduct is the crass and flagrant disobedience of the order of the Federal High Court by DSS. The presiding judge gave a clear order that the defendant should be remanded in prison custody pending the perfection of his bail. That order is very positive and very direct enough, yet the NBA President was silent on its breach in his statement but rather chose to concentrate on the behaviours of the unruly officers within the court premises. This is not good enough if one must put it mildly,” City Lawyer quoted Ojo as saying.

Another SAN, Mr. Shaibu Enejoh Aruwa also faulted the NBA statement, insisting that it “failed to reflect” what actually transpired between the DSS and the NCoS personnel.

 “What happened was clearly an attack brazenly carried out by men of the DSS on an officer of the NCoS; the NBA statement should have reflected what it is and not an altercation or a clash,” Aruwa said.

Also reacting to the disparaging remarks by the DSS that a human rights activist, Mr. Maxwell Opara is an “IPOB and Charge and Bail Lawyer,” Aruwa also condemned NBA’s silence on the DSS attack on its member.

Following its serial violations of human rights and disrespect for hallowed institutions, many lawyers believe that the DSS has become law unto itself and has also dragged Nigeria back to when Decree 2 was used by the defunct National Security Organisation (NSO) to dump Nigerians in detention under flimsy excuses.

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