Monday afternoon this week, my lawyer, Ichie Chuks Muoma SAN, filed a lawsuit against the State Security Service (SSS), the Director General of the SSS, and the Attorney General of the Federation. Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/10/09 was filed at the Abuja Federal High Court. The suit is seeking among other things, the immediate release of my international passport, my cell phones, my Toshiba notebook, and my flash drives.
The suit is also asking the Court to award me damages of N1billion. In addition we are asking the Court to declare my detention illegal and to restrain the SSS, other agents of the Nigerian government from further imprisoning me without due process.
I am told that Emeka Asiwe, the publisher of HuHuOnline.com, through his lawyer, Festus Keyamo, has also filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government. Emeka was detained on arrival from the United States while I was in the custody of the SSS. Since our release from SSS custody they have held on to our international travel documents.
Loss of freedom to move about and associate with any person of your choice is one of the gravest harms that can be done to anybody. After the excitement of my release from detention had faded it dawned on me that I was put in a bigger prison. I was not allowed to go back to my base in the United States to see my family, friends and colleagues. I missed covering the American elections in 2008. I was not home for Christmas and New Year, and it looks like I will not be in the United States for the inauguration of the first black president in the history of the United States. I did not even cover the Ghana presidential elections!
These are personal and professional loses to me. I have also lost my ability to travel to chase/investigate stories, and engage in other businesses I do to earn income.
I know that some people will not like the idea of my suing some agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria. To those people I ask: what could I have done? How do I get my life back? Should I have remained in this great prison and continue a life of uncertainty?
Efforts were made by my lawyer and other individuals to resolve this issue so that we do not take the step of suing the government. The last time my attorney, Ugo Muoma, met with officials of the SSS he was told to go to court since we had already written a letter opining that we may resort to legal action to seek redress.
Some persons who made contacts with officials of the SSS and even the director general of the SSS were told that I was detained and my travel documents are being held on to because I blackmail several governors. They also claimed that they were still investigating me. This would have been a very funny story except that it is my life and reputation that such highly placed members of the Federal Government, including the director general of the SSS, are toying with. I understand that one of the people who tried to intercede on my behalf offered to sign away all his assets if SSS can prove their allegations against me. Ironically, he is one of those I am supposed to have blackmailed. I know I am a black male but I have never blackmailed anybody in my life. I challenge the SSS, Police, or any other agent of the Nigerian government to charge and sustain such a charge against me.
I have also been told that the National Security Adviser to the President, Gen. Sarki Muktar is using me and members of the Nigerian media to win the hearts of the president and the first lady. Several people have confirmed this to me. According to this story, the government was advised by its lawyers to leave journalists “alone.” However, Gen. Muktar, the NSA insisted that journalists “should be taught some lessons.” This was done to ingratiate himself with the first family, especially Turai Yar’Adua who is said to be an avid consumer of Internet news.
Gen. Muktar, who was described by former colleagues as “incompetent and deadly” is said to run his office like a big branch of a commercial bank with heavy sums of money moving in and out on a daily basis. I have never met Gen. Muktar but it is very disheartening that a highly trained and respected general of the Nigerian Army would take it upon himself to ruin my life.
I have been told several times that I am a marked man. While I love and cherish life, my family and friends, I cannot hide my head in the sand for fear of being ‘roped’ into something on frivolous charges. The Nigerian government knows where I sleep every night. If they succeed in “wasting” me like they have threatened several times, so be it. I shall not live in fear of anybody or institution.
There is no doubt in my mind that I have taken the best line of action available to me. I have practiced my trade the best way I know. I may not get it right all the time but it is not because I desire to destroy anybody. I said the same thing to the SSS during my interrogations.
The ball has shifted to the judiciary. We await the result. I may not be able to comment further on this matter once it starts in court. I shall forever remain grateful to those who have supported me since my arrest in October of 2008. My family has been through hell. My friends have not faired better. Yet, I have been comforted by their unflinching resolve to stand by me. Not once have I been advised by a close friend or relative to ‘give in.’ I shall not!
However, I must register my disappointment with our elected officials, especially my representative in the House of Representatives, the Senator representing my senatorial zone, House and Senate leadership and former media practitioners who are now members of the National Assembly. They have remained silent in the face of unwarranted persecution of the media in a so-called democracy. Even those who were once persecuted by the Nigerian government are now blinded by the importance of the office they occupy. They should all hide their heads in shame.
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