By Nkasi Kolie

A non-governmental organization, Access to Justice has denounced the horrific and brutal manner the Department of State Service (DSS) “raided” the residence of Sunday Igboho last week.

In a statement, Joseph Otteh, Deji Ajare, Convener    and Project Director respectively stated that the Constitution of Nigeria recognizes powers of law enforcement and security operatives to conduct arrests, searches and detain persons/crime suspects. “But those powers are required to be exercised prudently and responsibly.” 

“Sections 4 and 5 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) provides for how an arrest may be made. An arrest is made by simply touching a person or confining him, and not by using lethal force! Where a search of a building is to be made, Sections 12 and 149 of ACJA establish that a demand to conduct that search shall first be made to a person residing, or in charge of the building and where that demand is refused, the person authorized to conduct the search may then, according to Section 9(2), break open any outer or inner door or window of any house or place.”

“There is no authority or power given to security forces, on arriving a place to make an arrest or conduct a search, to commence or conduct the process by lethal force, armed hostilities and violence.”

“The DSS chose not to make public whether its operatives complied with these procedural requirements. It did not say which party commenced the hostilities; the DSS did not say whether its officials announced themselves as State agents or not before the shooting began; the DSS did not state whether its operatives disclosed to residents of the building that they had an arrest or search warrant and were in the building to execute the warrants.  The account of the incident given by the DSS spokesperson leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and the agency is withholding critical information.

“However, the DSS account of the conflicts is entirely consistent with the theory that DSS operatives themselves triggered the violence that followed.  While Access to Justice does not hold brief for Sunday Igboho, the organization notes that there are widely published reports of previous attacks on the residence in question by yet-to-be identified persons. Given this background, it is reasonable to infer that unless there was an announcement by DSS operatives indicating that the early morning ‘raiders’ at Igboho’s residence were its agents, the house occupants were perfectly entitled to think that the “intruders” were of the kind and had the motives of those who had previously attacked that house.”

“Parading untried suspects as the DSS did is itself illegal; Section 2 of the Anti-Torture Act 2017 characterizes public parading of persons as torture. So, the DSS in essence also tortured those it arrested following the raid. That act of publicly shaming these persons, before they had the opportunity to state their own case is arrogant and oppressive. 

“Besides degrading its victims, the DSS usurps the jurisdiction of the courts in doing this, and stoops well-below the standards expected of a respectable agency. More concerning is the fact that the agency appeared completely indifferent to the tragic loss of lives following from its unfortunate and ill-advised operations, and indeed appeared to gloat over the bravado of its operatives. 

“In the light of the forgoing, Access to Justice Demands as follows:The immediate resignation or removal of the Director of the State Security Service alongside the resignation/removal of all officials of the agency who authorized the ill-fated raid on the residence of Sunday Igboho. 

“A thorough investigation into the attack on the residence of Sunday Igboho, and prosecution of all those whose conduct was reckless and unjustifiable. The DSS, and indeed other security agencies must rethink their strategic approach to dealing with political grievances/causes and groups which express them. 

“Access to Justice is concerned that the agency is perceived as politically partisan and motivated in its responses to many grievances held by citizens against the incumbent government. But there is a clear, strategic need for government institutions, particularly those related to security and law enforcement, to act with greater sensitivity and thoughtfulness in order to avoid actions capable of further inflaming already heated passions in the country, hardening more minds and hearts and causing more serious political and socio-economic instability in Nigeria.”

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