Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has written a letter to the Acting Director-General, Department of State Security, DSS, Mathew Seiyefa, to as a matter of urgency release the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, the Shiite leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-zakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zeinab El-zakzaky and hundreds of others illegally being detained by the DSS.
Falana, while congratulating the new DSS boss on his appointment, said the former sacked DSS DG, Lawal Daura committed lots of atrocities as innocent people were detained for years and months without trial and that even when such people were ordered to be released by the court, he would flout the order.”
“We are, however, compelled to draw your attention to the fact that our law firm has had a running battle for the last three years with Mr. Musa Daura, the immediate past Director-General of the SSS as a result of the incessant arrest and detention of Nigerian citizens and foreigners without trial. Some of the infringements of the human rights of criminal suspects and other persons perpetrated by Mr. Daura.
“Apart from not obtaining orders from Magistrate Courts for the remand of suspects in line with section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Mr. Musa Daura treated the orders of several courts for the release of detainees with contempt. He became so power drunk that he harassed judges and lawyers who challenged his penchant for subverting the rule of law. At a stage we had to remind him that the brutal military dictators who trained minions like him did not succeed in cowing us into submission when we were fighting for the restoration of democratic rule in the country.
“Unfortunately, the public officers who have a bounden duty under the Mohammadu Buhari administration to call Mr. Daura to order have turned themselves into the defenders of his pompous impunity by making nebulous references to “national security” or “public interest”. Hence, Mr. Daura has willfully ignored the order of the federal high court made on December 2016 for their release of Sheik Ibraheem and Hajia Zeinab Elzakzaky from the illegal custody of the SSS,” he said.
Falana said even though El-zakzaky lost his right eye as a result of the injury sustained when he was shot by soldiers in Zaria on December 15, 2015, Daura rejected the recommendation of eye specialists that the detainee be flown abroad for medical treatment to prevent the loss of his left eye in the custody of the SSS, adding that Mrs El-zakzaky who was also shot during the violent military attack had been denied access to medical experts who have offered to extract some bullets from her body.
“Thus, the SSS has subjected the couple to excruciating physical pain and mental agony in violation of their fundamental right to freedom from degrading treatment guaranteed by section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic, 1999 as amended. As you are no doubt aware, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), a former National Security Adviser is standing trial for treasonable felony and corruption before the Federal High Court and the Federal Capital Territory High Court respectively.
“Although the defendant has been admitted to bail by both trial courts, the SSS has continued to detain him without any legal justification. As if that is not enough, the order of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States directing the Federal Government to release Col. Dasuki on bail pending trial has also been treated with disdain by the SSS. Even though the defendant has not been charged with culpable homicide the defenders of Mr. Daura’s disobedience of court orders have belatedly turned round to accuse the defendant of being responsible for the death of over 100,000 people!
“However, we have just confirmed that hundreds of other criminal suspects are being detained in dehumanizing conditions in the several detention facilities of the SSS in Abuja and in all the states of the federation. From the information at our disposal, the detention of majority of the suspects is not connected to national security in any material particular. For instance, our law firm has recently secured the release of two Indian nationals (Messrs Nittin Verma and Umesh Asudani) who were held in the detention centre of the SSS in Abuja for over 7 months on grounds that they had allegedly defrauded a Kano-based businessman.
“Before the suspects were illegally arrested by the SSS, the same complaint was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which had admitted the suspects to administrative bail. As Mr. Daura could not defend the detention of the suspects he caused an official of the SSS to swear to a false affidavit in the Federal High Court to the effect that they were involved in terrorism,” he explained.
Falana stated that on account of corruption and abuse of office which characterised the tenure of Daura, the SSS took over many criminal cases that were being investigated by other security and anti-graft agencies, and that by compromising such criminal cases, he exposed the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration to ridicule.
He said a number of the suspects in the custody of the SSS had been held incommunicado for about three years in contravention of section 6 (2) (c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which had imposed a duty on all detaining authorities in Nigeria to notify the next of kin or relative of every suspect of the arrest at no cost to the suspect, adding that two of the victims of such prolonged incarceration were Mr. Jones Abiri, a journalist and Mr. Peter Collins Opume, an undergraduate of the Niger Delta Delta University, Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, as b0th citizens had been detained in the SSS dungeon in Abuja for over two years without trial.
The human rights lawyer added that based on the instruction of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in New York, United States, his law firm filed an application at the Federal High Court last month to secure the enforcement of Mr. Abiri’s fundamental right to personal liberty, saying that as the SSS could not justify the prolonged detention of the journalist, Mr. Daura decided to rush him to a Magistrate Court in Wuse, Abuja where he and Mr. Opume were arraigned on a trump up charge of sending a text message to an official of an oil company on or about June 26, 2016.
“Although the trial Magistrate admitted both defendants to bail they have not been able to meet the conditions attached to the bail. Hence, they have been remanded in Keffi Prison pending trial. However, Mr. Abiri’s wife and children were opportune to set their eyes on him in the prison custody today after two years of illegal separation caused by the SSS,” he said.
Falana, therefore, demanded from the new DSS boss to discontinue the frivolous charge pending against Abiri and Peter Collins Opume at the Wuse Magistrate Court; release the hundreds of detainees that were languishing without trial in the various detention centres of the SSS; release Col. Dasuki and other criminal suspects who had been admitted to bail by municipal and regional courts and release Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and Hajia Zeinab Elzakzaky from illegal custody in line with the orders of the Federal High Court.
He asked Seiyefa to respect the rights of suspects to consult legal practitioners of their choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to them after arrest; draw the attention of all SSS investigators to the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 which had criminalized the use of torture in all security agencies; ensure that all detention facilities of the SSS were inspected monthly by the visiting Judge of the Federal High Court in accordance with the provision of section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and stop the SSS from further usurping the powers of the Nigeria Police Force, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with respect to the investigation of allegations of murder, stealing, fraud, money laundering, corruption and other economic and financial crimes which are not connected to national security.
Falana further demanded from the new DSS boss to ban the operatives of the SSS from wearing masks as no military or paramilitary official was authorised by law to hide his/her identity in the course of performing official duties and ensure that the SSS operates within the ambit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and the National Security Agencies Act.