Why the SSS Defence of the Arrest of Lai Mohammed Is Farcical By Okoi Obono-Obla
The defence of Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, the Spokesperson of the Directorate of State Security (otherwise known as State Security Service) justifying the arrest and detention of the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Lai Mohammed on the eve of the Osun State Governorship Election last weekend on the network programme of the Channel Television this yesterday is tenuous and hollow.
Aside from Alhaji Lai Mohammed, more than 200 local APC leaders were rounded up detained and released without the SSS explaining the reason for their arrest. This is outrageous.
Is this not a descent to the hey days of military dictatorship where citizen were routinely and randomly arrested and detained for no reason, by security agencies?
Mrs. Ogar had submitted that Alhaji Lai Mohammed had no business being in Osun State on the eve of the election because he is not an indigene of that State. The ground(s) given by Mrs. Ogar for the arrest and detention of Alhaji Mohamed is farcical and untenable to say the least.
I make bold to state: the fact that Mrs. Ogar could not give good and substantial grounds to justify the arrest and detention of Alhaji Mohammed is an admission that the arrest and detention was unjustifiable and unreasonable under the circumstance.
It is shameful and a cause for concern that Mrs. Ogar, a supposedly professional officer, would go on air to defend such a pathetic blunder by the SSS rather than SSS simply rendering an apology for such an unparalleled goof.
It is as clear as the crystal that Alhaji Mohammed as a citizen has the fundamental right to move freely in any part of the country as he pleases, as long as he is law abiding!
It follows that the statement made by Mrs. Ogar that Alhaji Mohammed was not suppose to be in Osun State on the eve of the Governorship Election because he is not from Osun State, is unfortunate.
It is curious to my mind and I wonder aloud if there were no PDP leaders in Osun State on the same day Alhaji Lai Mohammed was arrested and detained who were not from Osun State?
The Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro from Lagos State was in Osun State! Chris Uba from Anambra was in Osun State! Why were these PDP leaders not arrested and detained by the SSS? Did they not move about on the eve of the election in Osun? Or were they confined to their hotel rooms?
It is laughable for Mrs. Ogar to suggest that Lai Mohammed was arrested for the offence of “wandering or loitering”. It smacks of deep seated ignorance of the law for Mrs. Ogar to suggest that Lai Mohammed was arrested for wandering or loitering.
There is no law against wandering and loitering. This law was abolished several decades ago when the Constitution of 1979 came into force because it was clearly inconsistent with the fundamental right provision of that Constitution that guarantees freedom of movement.
In the current Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) there is also a provision in Chapter IV that guarantees freedom of movement. Assuming (without conceding) that there is a law against wandering or loitering, it goes without saying that such law would definitely be at variance with the right to freedom of movement guaranteed by the Constitution.
The continued use of the military and security agencies such as the State Security Service to intimidate and harass the opposition on Election Day is an assault on the fundamental freedom of the people to participate in political governance by voting to elect leaders of their choice.
This same crude strategy was used in the Ekiti State governorship election that took place in June, 2014. There were reports in the media that Senator Andy Uba, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party who is from Anambra stormed Ekiti State with a contingent of well armed soldiers.
I have it on good authority that Senator Andy Uba even addressed troops of the Nigerian Army in Ekiti under the watchful eyes of their Commander, Major General Momoh and urged them to work and support the Peoples Democratic Party.
The pertinent question is: Why was Senator Andy Uba given the opportunity to address troops and officers of the Nigerian Army?
Why should Senator Uba solicit for these troops and officers to support the Peoples Democratic Party? Is the Army not supposed to be politically neutral? What did the State Security Service not arrest Senator Andy Uba?
It is a dangerous and sad commentary to drag the Army into partisan politics. The Army is one of the national institutions that hold the fabric and cohesion of the country together. It is one of the oldest national institutions that have always maintained the integrity, unity, peace and stability of the country.
What was Senator Andy Uba doing in Ekiti State on the eve of the governorship election there?
If Alhaji Mohammed was arrested and detained for being in Osun State on the eve of the Governorship Election why did the State Security Service not administer the same dose of medicine to Senator Uba during the Ekiti Elections?
It is clear that the SSS was being partisan when it arrested and detained Alhaji Lai Mohammed. It is better for the SSS, Military and other security agencies to resist the efforts being made by the Federal Government of Nigeria to drag it into the murky waters of partisan politics!
The SSS must assert its independence. The SSS must remain politically neutral. The SSS must be professional in all its dealings with the public in order to win its confidence.
Undeniably incidences such as the illegal arrest of Alhaji Mohammed seriously erode the confidence of the populace in the SSS.
The SSS was established under Section 2 subsection 3 (a) (b) & (c) of the National Security Agencies Act, 2004, and vested with the following responsibilities:
(a)the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria;
(b)the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and
(c)such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
From the above, it is clear that the SSS has no business with arresting and detaining opposition leaders on election who do not pose a threat to the internal security of the country.
Certainly, the presence of Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Osun State on the 8th July 2014 did not, by any stretch of the imagination pose a threat to the internal security of the country, and his arrest was most unwarranted. Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s arrest and detention only succeeded in earning the SSS bad publicity, which they should zealously guard against in future!
I however commend the Senior Officer of the SSS who directed Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s release. The arrest and detention was absolutely unnecessary, to be sparse with words!
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