About 60 Constitutional and Human Rights lawyers on Monday at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, commenced a contempt charge against the Director General of the State Security Service, Yusuf Bichi, over alleged disobedience to multiple judgments and court orders, directing the release of the suspended Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, from custody of the agency.
The contempt charge seeks to commit the DSS Chief to prison in line with provisions of the law on violation of a lawful order of a competent court.
The lawyers, led by Maxwell Opara and Abdulazeez Ahmed Tijani, prayed to the court to commit the DSS DG to prison until he purges himself of the contempt.
In their motion filed before the Court for the issuance of Form 48 and Form 49, which are the forms to commence proceedings to commit a contemnor to prison, the lawyers said that by the judgments and orders of Justice M. A. Hassan, Justice Hamza Muazu, and Justice Bello Kawu, the DG DSS ought to have released Emefiele from detention.
In the affidavit in support of the application, the lawyers deposed to the fact that Justice M. A. Hassan restrained the respondents in that suit, particularly the State Security Service, from arresting, detaining, or interrogating Emefiele for offenses connected to Terrorism financing, money laundering, round-tripping, and financial crimes of national security dimension, among others.
They asserted that despite the clear and positive orders of Justice Hassan, the State Security Service still went ahead to arrest and detain Emefiele and detained him for well over a month while shopping for evidence.
While addressing newsmen after filing their processes at the Registry of the Court, Maxwell Opara said the group will pursue the matter to its logical conclusion and ensure that Bichi is sent to prison to serve as a deterrent to other heads of security agencies and top government officials that contempt of court and gross abuse of offices for personal vendettas will no longer be tolerated.
Opara also called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to immediately relieve Bichi of his appointment as DG SSS for having allegedly misled the President into believing that Emefiele had committed heinous crimes against the state, only for him to now file a charge of unlawful possession of firearms.
“Is it not clear enough to Nigerians that the SSS is persecuting Emefiele if, after holding him for 5 weeks, they can only file a ridiculous charge of possessing a pump-action gun? Opara asked.
“If possessing a validly registered pump-action gun is a crime worthy of being held in perpetuity, what has the SSS done to the person threatening Nigerians from a particular section of the country with an assault rifle? This clearly shows the travail of Emefiele is more for political reasons than for any other.”
“Assuming there was no valid court order since the DSS had been unable to find any evidence against Emefiele, he was entitled to his release, and how much more now that three different courts have ordered his release? The SSS is still holding him in unlawful detention and violating all his rights, hence the reason why we will ensure Yusuf Magaji Bichi ends up being committed to prison”, the lawyer said.