By Rotimi Fasan
THAT a grievous act, bordering on the criminal, was committed by the Department of State Services, DSS, when it invaded a courtroom of the Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, is now beyond contention.
This is in spite of the denial by the DSS, the Presidency or their supporters that the incident is not what it looked like. They are, in effect, asking us to disbelieve the evidence of our eyes.
But there are also eye witness accounts (in multiple instances) of this violation including incontrovertible visual images and recorded audio of how the DSS attempted to and eventually succeeded in re-arresting Omoyele Sowore of the #RevolutionNow initiative, right in the courtroom. This precipitated a struggle that disrupted proceedings in the court and led to the rowdy closure of an ongoing court session.
Sowore had been granted bail by Justice Ojukwu only the evening before the invasion of her court. What Nigerians may be at sea determining is not that a violation had been committed but rather the nature of the sanction that should be meted to this lawless establishment, Nigeria’s secret police that operates as a unit under the Presidency that is itself under President Muhammadu Buhari.
The confusion about what should be the appropriate sanction for the DSS act of criminal violation follows questions of who to administer the sanction and what should be the nature of that sanction. Can accused persons also play the part of judge in their own case? If they do, would they convict themselves? Let’s not forget that the DSS is a unit of the executive headed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It would be stretching credulity too far to imagine President Buhari or members of his family, are not aware of all that transpired in Justice Ojukwu’s court and the controversy that has since been generated. If Buhari, unlike Donald Trump, is not a devotee of cable television – or if, as Rotimi Amaechi once alleged in a leaked audio, the President does not read, we certainly cannot say the same of his wife who is so much abreast of ongoing debates she randomly airs her views even through phone call-in to television programmes as she recently did on TVC’s “Journalist Hangout”.
If Buhari’s handlers walk on egg shells around him and deliberately keep him in the dark on issues that may not be flattering to his person, if some of these “evil” or “bad” people that Aisha, the Wife of the President, alleges have taken over the country from her husband and their ilk had succeeded in shielding him from inconvenient truths about his administration, his wife or their social media-savvy children cannot be so deceived. So, if Buhari is in the thick of the DSS operation, if he is aware of the DSS gestapo-like conduct (as he must well be except he has been sleeping on duty, literally or while Nigeria burns), who then will punish the DSS or President Buhari himself? How will such punishment be executed?
One notes that the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA; the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP; Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have variously called for sanctions against the DSS. They have asked for the dismissal of the director of the DSS, the arrest of the DSS operatives that participated in the desecration of the judiciary or the professional ostracization of lawyers in the Buhari administration.
But the question is to what avail would these sanctions be? Who would execute them considering the apparent involvement of the presidency in the attack on the courts?
Nigeria has finally come full circle. The various acts of brigandage perpetrated by the DSS including serial violations of court orders on the release of Sambo Dasuki, Sheik Ibrahim El Zakzaky, the midnight invasion of the homes of judges alleged to have corruptly enriched themselves to the daylight invasion of the National Assembly, have now come to a head with the intrepid attack on the court session of Justice Ojukwu who had ordered the DSS to release Sowore within 24 hours and had imposed a N100, 000 fine on the DSS for ignoring her previous pronouncements. Disrupting her court sitting in the manner the DSS did could be the secret police’s own way of teaching the judge a bitter lesson, or calling attention to the impotence of her position.
The attack on her court couldn’t have been an innocuous act. It was clear that the DSS which now operates in the criminal fashion of the State Research Bureau of the Idi Amin years in Uganda, has no intention of apologising for their conduct. So far, no meaningful response has come from the presidency.
None but the drivel released by Garba Shehu, two full days after the DSS action, repeating the hogwash about Omoyele Sowore’s attempt to overthrow a legitimate government and the usually foolish trivia of the loudmouthed Lauretta Onochie. Neither of these paid hands directly addressed the action of the DSS. They only fobbed the issue by setting up straw men for their own demolition.
As for the DSS, it probably did not think the outrage that trailed its action was worth a cow’s dung. It went to sleep, going on about its shadowy business without a worry. Not perhaps, until some of their enablers realised that comparisons were being made between the activities of the DSS now and the Nigerian Security Organisation under the draconian Muhammadu Buhari regime of 1984.
These same enablers must have also impressed it on the DSS that silence in the face of the outrage and criticisms of their action was admission of guilt. Thus, began the lame pushback which did not begin until two full nights after the attack on Sowore in the courtroom of Justice Ojukwu. And what lie did the DSS have to peddle this time around? That the attack on Sowore and the disruption of an ongoing court session, part of which was caught live in images that are now widely available, were mere dramatizations by Sowore, his lawyer and their supporters.
The lies being peddled by the DSS does not deserve any response. This was an organisation that told unprofessional lies to explain away its refusal to release Sowore before his brief release and re-arrest last week. It variously accused Sowore’s lawyers and his supporters of not showing up to receive him. Later, it insisted on his sureties showing up. The DSS kept changing its explanation as the mood takes it. But what is clear now is that it is determined to keep Omoyele Sowore in custody as it has numerous detainees that competent courts have ordered released. If Buhari insists on making peaceful change impossible, he might be directing his opponents to less peaceful options.