Rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), in a congratulatory letter to Matthew Seiyefa, on his appointment as Acting Director General of the Department of States Services (DSS), has asked Seiyefa to see to the immediate release those illegally held in custody by the previous DSS boss, Lawal Daura.
The DSS has become infamous for its extended detention of Nigerians, while ignoring court orders for their release.
In the past few years, the DSS has arrested quite a number of Nigerians and among them are a journalist, Jones Abiri; Shiite leader, Sheik El-Zakzaky, along with his wife; and former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
Falana, in his letter, noted that the former DSS boss was “power-drunk” and acted without regards for the rule of law.
He also added that Daura lacked regard for foreigners who migrate into the country, alleging that some of them have been victims of Daura’s “tyranny”.
“From the information at our disposal, the detention of majority of the suspects is not connected to national security in any material particular. For instance, our law firm has recently secured the release of two Indian nationals (Messrs Nittin Verma and Umesh Asudani) who were held in the detention centre of the SSS in Abuja for over seven months on grounds that they had allegedly defrauded a Kano-based businessman,” he wrote.
He, however, pleaded with the Acting DSS DG to, unlike his predecessor, immediately obey a court order, which called for the release of the detainees, and charge those regarded as suspects to court, as against keeping them in detention.
Falana listed a 10-point action for Seiyefa, adding that it would no doubt assure Nigerians of his commitment to ensuring that the SSS respects the rights of all persons and operates under the rule of law. The 10-point agenda is reproduced below:
i. Discontinue the frivolous charge pending against Messrs Jones Abiri and Peter Collins Opume at the Wuse Magistrate Court;
ii. Release the hundreds of detainees that are languishing without trial in the various detention centres of the SSS;
iii. Release Col. Dasuki and other criminal suspects who have been admitted to bail by municipal and regional courts;
iv. Release Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and Hajia Zeinab Elzakzaky from illegal custody in line with the orders of the Federal High Court.
v. Respect the rights of suspects to consult legal practitioners of their choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to them after arrest;
vi. Draw the attention of all SSS investigators to the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 which has criminalised the use of torture in all security agencies;
vii. Ensure that all detention facilities of the SSS are inspected monthly by the Visiting Judge of the Federal High Court in accordance with the provision of section 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act;
viii. Stop the SSS from further usurping the powers of the Nigeria Police Force, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with respect to the investigation of allegations of murder, stealing, fraud, money laundering, corruption and other economic and financial crimes which are not connected to national security;
ix. Ban the operatives of the SSS from wearing masks as no military or paramilitary official is authorised by law to hide his/her identity in the course of performing official duties;
x. Ensure that the SSS operates within the ambit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and the National Security Agencies Act.