Wike foils DSS, police plot to abduct High Court Judge
• Why We Struck, By State Services
• NBA Warns FG Of Grave Consequences
• Fayose, Rights Groups, Others Condemn Operation
There was drama, yesterday, as Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, stormed out of his residence and forcefully restrained the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Police from arresting a Federal High Court judge.
The siege by the security operatives, which began 1 a.m., was communicated to Wike, who drove immediately to the judge’s residence, few meters from Government House, Port Harcourt, to ascertain motive behind the action.
Upon sighting the governor, the personnel who had blocked the entrance to the residence became infuriated and rebuffed his enquiry. Upon insistence that they had to leave with the judge, an altercation reportedly ensued, during which the governor sustained injury to his finger.
The operation to snatch the judge was said to have been manned by Rivers State DSS Director, Tosin Ajayi, alongside Police Commissioner, Francis Odesanya.
Wike told reporters: “Not under my watch will I allow this kind of impunity to take place. That is why we are here. I don’t know which judge they were detailed to abduct. I didn’t bother myself to know. All I am interested in is that, at this level, it is not allowed. He is not a criminal and he is not an armed robber. If the person has committed an offence, invite him. It is only when he refuses to honour the invitation that you can adopt this commando style.
“The Commissioner of Police is here, the Director of DSS is here. Their operatives cocked their guns and threatened to shoot me. I have never seen that before. Again, this is to tell you what we are facing. We know that more will come. For us in this state, we shall continue to resist it.
“It doesn’t matter what it will cost. When you talk about liberty, sacrifices must be made. We are not trying to stop an arrest. All we are saying is that things must be done decently and in line with the rule of law. Rivers State is under siege. For you to see a governor, out at this time of the day, something is wrong. A siege is an understatement. If this type of thing happens next time, the people will resist it to the last. They are trying to do something funny in this state, probably to declare a state of emergency.”
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) condemned the arrest of judicial officers and declared a state of emergency in the judiciary.It also called for the immediate and unconditional release of the justices and judges arrested.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, NBA president, Abubakar Mahmoud, warned of grave consequences, if the Federal Government does not meet the association’s demands.
He said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro, and Sylvester Ngwuta, were abducted, and that members of their families were manhandled.“The homes of two Supreme Court justices, two Federal High Court judges, and High Court judges of Gombe and Rivers were raided,” he said.
He added: “I want to, on behalf of the Bar Association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands. We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9 p.m., yesterday (Friday).
“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions. Two, we demand that the Department of State Services (DSS) limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities. It’s not the responsibility of the DSS to perform duties meant for the police and other agencies of the state.
“I want to emphasise again that we’re not under military rule and we cannot accept this Gestapo-style operations.“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call all the state security agencies to order and respect the rule of law and due process.”
The body also set up a Crisis Management Team comprising past presidents and general secretaries to investigate the matter.Persons at the briefing included former NBA presidents, Augustine Alegeh (SAN); Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); Joseph Daudu (SAN); former NBA General Secretary, Dele Adesina (SAN); Prof. Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN); Kemi Pinheiro (SAN); and NBA vice president, Onyekachi Ubani.
In a statement, the DSS, however, explained its action, saying: “We have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges, as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgments obtained fraudulently, and on the basis of amounts of money paid.
“The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched. The searches have uncovered huge raw cash of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these judges.
“In one of the states where the operations were conducted, credible intelligence revealed that the judge had $2,000,000 USD stashed in his house. When he was approached for due search to be conducted, he, in concert with the state governor, mobilised thugs against the Service team.
“The team restrained itself in the face of unbridled provocative activities by those brought in by the governor. Unfortunately, the judge and the governor also engaged the tacit support of a sister security agency.
“The Service surveillance team noticed that upon frustrating the operation, the judge with the active support of the governor craftily moved the money to an unknown location, which the Service is currently making effort to unravel.”The DSS refused to answer questions from journalists.
Meanwhile, Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, urged the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to declare an indefinite strike on behalf of judges, “so that all courts of law in Nigeria will be boycotted until there is respect for the rule of law and the Constitution, beginning Monday, October 10, 2016, until further notice.”
Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, in a statement, yesterday condemned, “in the strongest possible terms this naked show of brute force by operatives of the Department of State Services, and we demand that the relevant institutional mechanisms for checks and balances be activated to get to the roots of all these recent affronts and confrontations to democracy.”
The Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, also condemned what he described as direct assault on the judiciary.Fayose told reporters: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria, and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.
“For all intent and purposes, there is no way the Federal Government can justify the Gestapo-style and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man. I believe they want to hide under the anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary.
“If not, have the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges? Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation?
“I am particularly worried over Justice Walter Onnoghen. I hope this is not a plot to prevent his appointment as the next Chief Justice of the Federation just because he is from the South South region.
“Nigerians should be reminded that I raised similar alarm when this regime of impunity started with the invasion of the Akwa-Ibom State Government House, and later, the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
“I did say then that democracy in Nigeria was becoming unsafe in the hands of this APC government, and that those keeping silent because of politics might also end up in the belly of the roaring lion threatening to consume our democracy.”
“It is more worrisome that two of the judges involved, Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, ruled against the DSS and condemned its impunity in the cases of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), and retired Air Commodore, Umar Mohammed. One wonders, if upholding the rule of law by refusing to help the DSS sustain its reign of impunity has now become a criminal offence for which judges must be harassed, intimidated and arrested.”
Fayose added: “I call on all Nigerians and the international community to rise in defence of democracy and the rule of law in our country because, as it is, no one will be spared by this rampaging dictatorship. Particularly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other stakeholders in the judiciary must not allow this to go unchallenged.”