Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria have tackled the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, over the continued detention of 12 aides of Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, despite meeting all bail conditions.
The senior advocates – Femi Falana, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Ifedayo Adedipe — said the DSS is inviting anarchy and lawlessness into the country by not obeying the order of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja which granted bail to the 12 detained aides of the separatist leader also known as Sunday Igboho.
They spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH over the weekend.
According to the detainees’ lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi; the presiding judge, Justice Obiora Egwuatu had signed the Release Order of all the 12 detainees when they fully met their bail conditions last week including the provision of 24 sureties.
The detainees are Abdullateef Onaolapo, Tajudeen Irinloye, Dikeola Ademola, Ayobami Donald, Uthman Adelabu, Olakunle Oluwapelumi, Raji Kazeem, Taiwo Tajudeen, Amudat Babatunde, Abideen Shittu, Jamiu Oyetunji, and Bamidele Sunday.
The detainees have spent over 60 days in DSS custody since they were arrested around 1am on July 1, 2021, when the secret police “raided” Igboho’s Ibadan residence in a Gestapo style, killing two other associates of the activist in a “gun duel.”
The 12 detainees had approached the court to seek their release.
However, DSS lawyer, Idowu Awo had kicked against the bail granted by Justice Egwuatu on August 4, 2021 to four of the detainees — Babatunde, Shittu, Oyetunji and Sunday, claiming that they were heavily involved in the alleged offence of arms stockpiling and other criminal activities of their boss, Igboho.
Awo had also filed a remand application for the DSS to continue to detain the contested four and subsequently approached a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja to revoke the bail earlier granted by Justice Egwuatu but despite the objections of the DSS lawyer, the judge had granted all the detainees bail and signed their Release Order.
The court also served the signed Warrant of Release to the secret police last week but days after, Olajengbesi said the DSS was yet to free the detainees as ordered by the court.
Speaking with The PUNCH, Adegboruwa said, “The failure by the DSS to comply with the order of the court releasing on bail, the aides of Chief Sunday Adeyemo is an invitation to anarchy. It is an invitation to lawlessness and it is to encourage a breakdown of law and order.
“The reason why we have the DSS and indeed the government is because they are established by law. DSS didn’t just come into being on its own; it is a product of the legislature. The government itself is a product of the constitution that prescribes the system with which we voted them into power and define their function.
“That same law establishes the court and it is stated in Section 287 of the 1999 Constitution that all persons exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers must give directive to all orders made by courts in Nigeria. And to that extent, it is not proper for any agency or any person at all to receive the order of a court and sit upon it and refuse to obey it because if the government refuses to obey the order of the court, what does it expect citizens to do? How do citizens comply with the directive of government when the government itself is refusing to obey and comply with law and order?”
He said the appeal filed by the DSS should not be granted. “There is no stay of execution that should be granted for the enforcement of the liberty of any citizen because the person is not going to run away. The fact that a suspect is released on bail in accordance with the orders of the court does not jeopardize the case that the DSS may have against them.
“The remedy for the DSS in this particular case is to release them and then gather its evidence together and go ahead and prosecute them in court and await the final decision of the court,” the SAN stated.
Adegboruwa urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to prevail upon the DSS to obey the bail granted by the court.
“I am appealing to the President who is in charge of the DSS, because the DSS is a department under the Presidency, to give necessary directive to ensure that the order is obeyed,” the human rights activist added.
Also, another senior advocate, Adedipe told The PUNCH that the continued detention of Igboho’s aide despite the court order granting them bail was not surprising as the Buhari regime has a knack for disregarding court orders.
He said, “Nothing surprises me anymore about this particular regime. The disrespect for the judiciary is legendary. You will recall that the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was repeatedly denied his freedom when the court pronounced that he should be released. You will equally recall the cleric in Kaduna State (Ibrahim Zakzaky) that got recently freed on a so-called murder charge.
“Unfortunately, we have an Attorney General that is more of a politician than a Minister of Justice for the Federation. When you disrespect the court, you are laying the ground for lawlessness because people will simply believe that there is no point going to court and nobody is going to obey the decision of the court.
“He (AGF) is a lawyer and a senior advocate whose duty it is to see that constitutional provisions are complied with by government officials. I expect him to call the DSS officials and advise them accordingly.
“It is in the interest of government’s institutions to obey constitutional provisions and obey court decisions. The challenge to good governance is wrongdoing by government officials, who when they should uphold the law, disobey the law.
“There is no justification by the Department of State Services not to release that granted bail by the court.
Adedipe said the DSS might not want to release the detainees so that what happened at the midnight of July 1, 2021 won’t be exposed but the SAN said “releasing them will not change the fact about the true event that took place at the residence of Mr Igboho”.
Also commenting on the matter, human rights lawyer, Falana said, “Under a civilian regime where the rule of law operates, court orders are obeyed by all authorities and persons. But the Buhari administration has suspended human rights and placed the rule of law in abeyance.”
He noted that “the regime has treated court orders with brazen disdain and unrestrained official impunity.
“A couple of years ago, I was compelled to furnish Nigerians with the names of over 20 political detainees and criminal suspects who were released on the orders of the various High Courts between 1984 and 1985 when General Buhari was the military head of state.
“However, since the courts have not been abolished it behoves judges and lawyers to ensure that court orders are complied with.”
The detainees’ lawyer had warned that contempt proceedings would be instituted against the DSS and its Director-General for failing to release the detainees despite the fact that they had been served with the court’s signed warrant of release.
To this, Falana said, “Happily, the lawyer to the 12 citizens who have been admitted to bail have commenced contempt proceedings against the Director-General of the State Security Service. That is the way to go in a democratic society. Let him be bold enough to adduce reasons why the court order will not be obeyed.”
DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, did not take calls to his line. He also did not respond to a text message sent by our correspondent requesting comments on the matter as of the time of filing this report.
Also, Malami’s spokesman, Umar Gwandu, neither take his calls nor replied to a text message sent to his line seeking comments on the continued detention of the 12 aides of the activist.
Igboho, wanted by the DSS for alleged arms trafficking, has been in detention in Cotonou, Benin Republic, since July 19, 2021 when he was arrested at an airport as he tried to board a Germany-bound flight. PUNCH