By Ben Agande & Chioma Onuegbu
The recent search of Government House, Uyo by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS has elicited strong comments. While partisans of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP are condemning it, opponents of the ruling party in the state mostly found in the All Progressives Congress, APC are speaking in favour of the alleged invasion.
Two leading partisans in the two parties, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanag, a former military administrator spoke in condemnation of the action of the DSS, Leo Ekpeyong, an Abuja based lawyer from Akwa Ibom State spoke passionately in favour of the action.
It is constitutional sacrilege – Nkanga
Does the DSS have the constitutional right to search a Government House?
There is no place in the constitution that has given the DSS the right to do what they did, the way they did. Those that are familiar with the history of this country, even during the days of military government, there was no time any Government House was invaded the way they did. If we may even look at it very well, what is the symbol that we are a state?
What is the symbol of democracy? It is completely unacceptable and Nigerians should stand up and fight for democracy because if we don’t do it, in fact democracy will be sliding.
We expect the President to say something otherwise we will suspect that he knew about it. We expect that proper investigation will be done and the result of that investigation will be made known. If this is not done, I expect the media to ask, what kind of democracy do we have?
It took Akwa Ibom elders almost a week to react. Why?
We don’t have a time limit for that. In fact as I do know, we are expecting the union of journalists to condemn that but they have not even done that yet. This is for the whole country we must take it that way. But if you look at it from the contest of Akwa Ibom state they are different categories of people that have commented on this and condemned it.
The elders may not necessarily be the first to do so. The elders when they speak they should speak from the position of knowledge of strength, the position of maturity and responsibility. We have weighed all sides of the coin and we have seen that something very dramatic is happening, something so terrible is happening to this country.
Are you suspecting any kind of internal conspiracy and second, is it constitutionally right for foreign currencies to be stocked in the Government House?
We said in our address that if they find foreign currency in my house, I think it would have been even different but this is an allegation. We want SSS to speak up. They have not said anything. All we are hearing are from people that suspect, we allege, we think. At some point they said that the entire government house was filled with money.
If that was the case, we in Akwa Ibom should be very happy because we have money for development there in government, but that is not the issue. They are talking of arms, where are the arms? Did they suspect that there was going to be explosion in Government House?
And foreign currency I don’t think they have said they found foreign currency, such were all rumour all over the place. But in any case there are laws governing this. Right now if they check among individuals there are journalists that will have foreign currency on them. But that is not the issue now.
Do you think that what happened is linked to the ongoing case at the tribunal?
Well I said in the address that the hostility started since after the election. I don’t know what the tribunal is saying, I have not gone to the tribunal, those that are investigating can link it if that is the case I don’t know, but we have had hostilities since after the elections and which are unacceptable.
In your opinion what steps should the DSS taken to resolve the issue?
It is very simple. The governor is the Chief Security Officer of this state, there is no body in Abuja that knows more than people here in Akwa Ibom state. To have invaded government house, there is nothing to suspect.
If you suspect something in the villa in Abuja now, will you do the same thing? So if you suspected something, the Chief Security Officer of the state must know, if you wanted to do any investigation, he must be in the picture, because if anything goes wrong in this state he will be held responsible first and foremost.
No law bans search of Govt House — Ekpeyong
BARRISTER Leo Ekpeyong, an Abuja based lawyer from Akwa Ibom State affirms that there is no law prohibiting security agencies from searching the perimeters of a Government House.
THE DSS did not raid Akwa Ibom Government House. It did not raid the official residence of the governor of Akwa Ibom State. It gained entry into one of the guest Houses of Akwa Ibom State Government.
To this extent, the action of the DSS was lawful in the sense that by virtue of the enabling act that created the DSS, it has the power to access any public building when there is intelligence information of an intention to commit crime. The step and activities embarked upon by the DSS in Uyo were to prevent crime which are within the purview of the powers of the service.
The guest house of the state government cannot be an exclusion from the purpose of preventing the commission of a crime by a lawful security outfit. The only buildings that are excluded from such activities by virtue of Geneva Convention are embassies and High commission. The guest House of Akwa Ibom state government is not a diplomatic building.
The immunity of the governor is only personal and it does not extend to a guest house owned by Akwa Ibom state governor. They did not access the official residence of the governor of the state. If you want you can extend the argument that the official residence of the governor could be covered by immunity but not a guest house owned by Akwa Ibom state government, for which intelligence was received about incriminating items therein. What is even crucial in this context is the security situation in Nigeria.
If there is information about the commission or intention to commit crime where incriminating items were alleged to have been harboured in the guest house of the Akwa Ibom state government, is it out of place for the DSS to access such building lawfully for the purpose of prevention of the commission of a crime?
Security is a key factor in the collective responsibility of every Nigerian to ensure that Nigeria and its territory are safe.
Even the threat of terrorism is a novel issue in Nigeria. Before the last seven years, was Nigeria categorized as a nation that is characterized by terrorism?
No. there is a novel threat to the nation’s security and novel approaches must be adopted. But fundamentally, there is a need for an overhaul of our criminal justice system and there is a need for an amendment of our laws in relation to security issues. It has become like an emergency situation which was never envisaged in the past and there is need for proactive measures to ensure that these anomalies are captured in our laws.