Rumblings In Ekiti: Lawmakers’ Loyalty Versus DSS Invasion

When the news broke on March 4 that operatives of the Directorate of State Security Services (DSS) had stormed the Assembly Complex of Ekiti State, and allegedly whisked away four lawmakers to Abuja, mixed reactions trailed the development. Those who sympathized with Governor Ayodele Fayose and the lawmakers decried the alleged illegality of such action while others held that Fayose and the lawmakers deserved the treatment, arguing that the governor’s critical comments on the Federal Government were responsible for the clamp down on the state functionaries.

The remaining members of the House, led by Speaker Kola Oluwawole, addressed a press conference to declare their loyalty to Fayose. They alleged that 18 members of the parliament had been penned down by the Federal Government and All Progressives Congress (APC) with the aim of coercing them to sign an impeachment notice against the governor.

The lawmakers who alleged that the DSS men, who stormed the Assembly Complex, shot sporadically into the air, warned that no acts of intimidation, harassment and coercion would make them betray Fayose. They urged those allegedly using the DSS against the governor to perish the thought of coercing them to impeach him and immediately release the arrested members.

They said: “The plot is to harass, intimidate and embarrass top officials of the Ayodele Fayose government because of his critical stance on the Buhari’s government.” The lawmakers recalled that the Federal Government had used the same tactics 10 years ago to truncate democracy in Ekiti and alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari is using the head of the DSS, Mr Lawal Daura, from his state, (Katsina) and his men, who are playing exactly the same role played between 1984 and 1985 by the National Security Organisation (NSO) under Lawal Rafindadi, also from Katsina, to muzzle the opposition. Fayose Fayose

They therefore asserted: “This reign of brute force over constitutional democracy will fail. Nigeria is not a banana republic that can be ruled anyhow by anyone”. Prominent legal practitioners also reacted to the development, some condemning DSS’s alleged invasion as reckless, others alleging that it was an act of intimidation from the FG which the lawmakers must resist with the last drop of their blood.

Yet, others charged the lawmakers to seek legal protection against the alleged infringement on their fundamental human rights by the DSS. One of the lawyers and a rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, described the alleged invasion as curious and condemnable and an affront on democracy, adding that the hallowed chamber had been desecrated. The state Commissioner for Finance and Business Development, Mr. Toyin Ojo, was also picked up, but regained his freedom a few days after. He spoke with reporters shortly after his release, and described the DSS’ interrogation as based on mere rumours and unfounded allegations. On March 9, the Federal High Court, sitting in Ado-Ekiti, ordered the DSS to release one of the detained lawmakers, Hon. Afolabi Akanni, with immediate effect.

The court gave the order while ruling on an exparte motion filed by Akanni’s lawyers, Obafemi Adewale and Bunmi Olugbade, seeking the enforcement of the lawmaker’s fundamental human rights in line with Section 35 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.

In the alternative, the court, in its ruling delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, ordered the DSS to produce Akanni in court on Wednesday, March 12 and show cause why he should not be released. Taiwo agreed with the applicant that the enforcement of fundamental human rights is a case of urgency, which should be treated expeditiously, citing the cases of Beko Ransome Kuti Vs SSS and Tunji Abayomi Vs SSS. The judge ordered that the respondent should be served with all the court processes on or before March 16 fixed for hearing.

However, DSS turned deaf ears to the court order and refused to release the lawmaker. According to the lead counsel to Akanni, Adewale, officials of the DSS at its state office on New Iyin Road, Ado-Ekiti, refused to allow the bailiff sent by him entry into the office and therefore prevented him from serving the court order notice on the office. Adewale later filed an application from the High Court, empowering Akanni’s legal team to publish the court order in two national dailies, an application which the court granted. Akanni’s legal team published the court order in a national daily on Wednesday, March 12, the day the court had mandated DSS to bring the lawmaker to court and show cause for his continued detention. Responding to the court’s order, Fayose lashed out at the DSS, saying they were taking on issues beyond their brief.

The governor, who declared that the DSS had taken on a wrong customer for attempting to coerce members of the state House to impeach him, wondered why the DSS, saddled with the statutory function of protecting the country against threats to internal security, would be involved in arresting lawmakers over alleged criminal offence, a duty he said belongs to the police. The governor said: “Beyond this judgment, I have always said that the DSS are taking on more than their brief.

They have become an instrument of oppression. They are now taking up the job of the police, the EFCC and all other security agencies. “You would recall that they were at the Akwa Ibom Government House to harass the governor. They came to Ekiti too to do the same thing. But this is Ekiti, they are taking on a wrong customer.” Unperturbed , DSS still held the lawmaker. A drama played out some days later when a press conference was called at the Exco Hall of the Governor’s office, Ado Ekiti. Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, in an emotion laden tone, disclosed that there were fears that Akanni slumped and died in the DSS custody that morning. Therefore, the state government demanded that the DSS either deny or confirm the claim. DSS ate the humble pie and showed Akanni to journalists to debunk the claim. An official of the DSS, Abdullahi Garba, said at the occasion: “This press conference has become necessary in order to debunk a rumour which is being dangerously spread in Ekiti by some mischief makers to the effect that Hon. Afolabi Akanni has died in custody. Nigerians and Ekiti people, in particular, are convinced to see that Akanni is hale and hearty as he is being presented to the press today,”

He noted that Akanni and others were invited for interrogation over issues relating to security breaches, which, he said the service had a statutory mandate over. “The fact is that one of the members of the Assembly, Hon. Afolabi Akanni was duly invited by the service over some serious breaches bordering on state security and for which he has some explanations to make.

These breaches fall under the purview of the DSS to investigate,”Garba said. “The DSS will, therefore, warn all those who have planned to make a meat out of this to desist from it and stir clear from trouble as the service will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law against anyone or persons that may engage in violent actions of any kind.” Responding to the DSS, the Ekiti lawmakers reiterated their support for Fayose and demanded again that the detained lawmaker be released.

They alleged that the FG and APC allegedly offered them $1 million, as well as juicy positions in the House as compensation for them to impeach the governor, an offer they claimed was turned down to protect their integrity and show their commitment to Fayose.

They also queried alleged visitation to the alma mater of some members of the House by persons who introduced themselves as officials of DSS to verify their academic qualifications. The lawmakers further took the battle against the DSS to embassies of United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA) and the National Assembly to press home their demand for the release of their colleague. The development heightened to the point where the two chambres of the National Assembly, Senate and the House of Representatives, commissioned a panel to look into the alleged invasion of the state Assembly.

On March 22, 18 days after he was arrested, news broke that Akanni had been dumped in a private hospital in Abuja where he was receiving treatment for an alleged illness he developed while in detention. On March 23, Ekiti was agog for the lawmaker, who was brought to the state by Fayose in company of another detained and released aide to the governor,

Mr. Ropo Ogunjobi, aboard a chopper which landed at Christ’s School playing ground, Ado Ekiti, where they were welcomed by mammoth crowd, comprising members of the House of Assembly, led by the Speaker, Hon Kola Oluwawole. Akanni, while addressing the crowd said his arrest and detention had further strengthened his loyalty for Fayose , describing the governor as a reliable leader. On his own, Ogunjobi revealed that the DSS, during interrogation, accused him of laundering N22 billion, being the amount paid on federal roads to Ekiti by the Federal Government into Fayose’s accounts, which he described as a blatant lie.

“They even said I helped Fayose to launder another N1.3 billion out of the N2.5 billion ecological fund released to the state. I said all these were lies. I can’t lie against Mr Governor”. Fayose regretted how past military dictators were endangering Nigerian democracy, urging Nigerians not to vote them into any sensitive position to preserve Nigerian democratic values.

Apparently to reward Akanni for remaining loyal to him in the face of his ordeal, the governor, during a get-together for the state lawmakers, presented a car gift to Akanni, describing him as a loyal and patriotic citizen of the state.

Fayose, who expressed confidence that the House is solidly behind him and cannot be bought to betray Ekiti, lashed out at the DSS, saying they have only succeeded in tarnishing their image with their alleged attempt to coerce the lawmakers to act the script to impeach him. Just as it appeared that the storm was over with the release of Akanni, Ekiti State government, through the governor’s Special Adviser on Communication and New Media, Lere Olayinka, on Wednesday, raised the alarm that policemen in Abuja were in the state to arrest 11 lawmakers and some government functionaries. Some of the lawmakers have since gone underground, relocating to Ibadan, Oyo State capital, and vowed that they would never betray Fayose. Given the latest development, an end to the stormy atmosphere the alleged DSS invasion had created in Ekiti doesn’t seem near. What is however crystal clear is that the lawmakers have proven to be unrepentant loyalists of Fayose.
-vanguard