Activists demand sack of SSS Director-General

Some activists have called for the removal of the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, over the illegal detention of Omoyele Sowore, and Friday’s invasion of a federal court.

Mr Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested alongside another activist, Olawale Bakare, on August 3 for planning a protest to call for good governance.

They were charged with treasonable felony, fraud and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.

The court granted the duo bail twice but the SSS refused to release them until Thursday night.

However, less than 24 hours later, the SSS rearrested them within the federal high court in Abuja, sparking national outrage.

The calls for the sack of Mr Bichi is borne from the fact that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had in August 2018 sacked the former SSS boss, Lawal Daura, for authorising the invasion of the National Assembly.

Mr Osinbajo took the decisive move as acting president while President Muhammadu Buhari was away in the United Kingdom.

Activists react

Activists who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES demanded the immediate removal of Mr Bichi.

They also accused the president of being complicit in Friday’s court invasion.

Sam Amadi, a lawyer and activist, hailed Mr Osinbajo’s action against the former SSS boss and expressed disappointment at the silence of Mr Buhari.

“…The presidency should have distanced itself from that action and then punitive action should be taken against the DSS boss and his members. He has shown it clearly by two or three actions that he lacks the competence and understanding of the service in the democracy and therefore does not present the competence and the capability to continue to preside,” he said.

“So, what we expect is that he is relieved of that job, and that presupposes that the presidency itself and the president are opposed to these actions to the point that they regard these actions as despicable and not a characteristic of their own policy of governance,” he said.

He, however, said the president’s silence could actually be a characteristic of presidential approach to governance for the second term.

“Nothing convinces me that this an aberration or a one-off thing; it seems to become…with the social media bill and all the arrests and constrictions of freedom, these are the things we should expect. I don’t have much confidence that the presidency will condemn it or the president will remove him.”

“A bigger call will be to dissolve the DSS. The DSS has lost its value. The DSS is no longer the intelligence agency. The DSS is becoming a criminal outfit, a gangster outfit with the way they dress, hooded…

“I would argue that this is the time to dissolve the DSS and reconstitute an intelligence agency properly defined because every country requires a properly working state secret police. This is no longer secret police.

“But whether the president will sack this SSS DG, I have seen nothing that suggests.”

Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said Mr Bichi should honourably resign as is the right thing to do.

“He should honourably resign because he has brought shame not only to the institution but to the government itself. The whole international community is watching and will rate Nigeria in a bad way.

“It is very clear that the government does not know the repercussions of the actions they are taking because even during military regime, we did not see this barbaric act,” he said.

He said some of the overzealous government officials need to understand that tomorrow they will retire and they will leave office and their bad deeds will rub off on them.

Issues of fundamental rights are important and must be respected and if a person goes against a law, he should be tried according to the law, he explained.

He said the SSS should go after those sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria and involved in corruption and stop “arresting people who are not threat to even their own families let alone the nation.”

“I think this is a misplaced priority. Sowore is not a threat to anybody. The DSS should find the people who are threats to Nigerians peace and security. Those ones are within the government.

“So, DSS is misplacing its priority on innocent law abiding activists who struggle day and night to see that Nigeria is better, for constructive engagement and demanding for accountability,” he said.

While stating that Mr Buhari’s government has been put to shame by the action of the SSS, he said the presidency’s silence shows that what SSS has done had the backing of the executive.

Legislative expert, Desmond Akinloye, who described the court invasion as very pathetic, said there is no way the executive will feign ignorance about the incident.

None of them can be deployed out of their office without his (Buhari’s) knowledge, he said.

He said the action of the SSS has brought disrespect to the institution and as such, Mr Bichi should be removed.

“The man should go. The DG SSS and those operatives who took part in that dangerous operation against the democracy should be adequately dealt with.” he said.

Mr Akinloye also admonished the National Assembly and other unions to come up with a resolution seeking punishment for the SSS boss and other officers involved.

“The legislature has to talk. Because it has happened before and that was when Osinbajo sacked Daura. It has happened to them and now it has moved to the judiciary so which arm of government is remaining? That is to tell you that we have gotten to the foundation of the nation and they are ready to crumble the nation.

“Not just the legislature, let every concerned Nigerian come out. We’ve not heard from NLC, TUC, National and State Assemblies, the Governor’s Forum.”

He also urged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to quit harmonisation and commence judicial activism.

While they do that, the legislature should be doing their own activism too, he said.

“A resolution must come out from the National Assembly that the DG SSS and those responsible must be dealt with and such resolution must be properly adhered to by the executive.”

Another activist, Nasir Kura, called for a total overhaul of the SSS. The DG and a lot of the principal officer there should go, he said.

He said it appears that they are getting more and more emboldened by this style of security which is not in line with the provisions of democracy and the rule of law, he explained.

Mr Kura who described the organisation as a rogue organisation, emphasised that law and order suggests that decorum and respect for the rule of law are sacrosanct and if a security organisation that is supposed to maintain and promote law and order ie the one openly and brazenly undermining such law and order, there is a need for a total overhaul of the entire system.

He also said the judiciary “has to cry foul” and the legislature has to condemn the act and ensure that the rule of law is restored.

“The impact of the court invasion will be felt the most by the citizens and constituents of lawmakers which is why the legislature must condemn the act and make such demand as well. They need to fight for the restoration of law and order.

“They need to ensure that the rules they have made – as contained in the constitution, are observed and maintained by everyone.”

Already, the NBA has made four demands including the suspension of Mr Bichi.

The presidency, on Sunday afternoon, in its first official reaction to the rearrest of Mr Sowore, justified his treatment but kept mum on the invasion of a court by SSS officials.

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