In what must have sounded even to its own hearing as pretty weird, the Department of State Services (DSS) told the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, that “one chance robbers” had stolen the case file containing the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by the 12 associates of Yoruba nation agitator, Mr. Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho. Counsel to the DSS, Mr. Idowu Awo, revealed that the file containing the court processes served on the agency by the aides was stolen from a member of the service legal team. The ‘one-chance’ thieves snatched the case file from his colleague who had unknowingly boarded their vehicle, he averred.
The 12 associates of Igboho had instituted the rights enforcement suit against the DSS for parading them in the media as common criminals. Among other things, the aides are seeking a declaration of the court that their detention beyond 48 hours and their media parade without a court conviction constituted a breach of their fundamental rights. They are also seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the DSS from interfering with their personal liberty and freedom of expression, while praying the court to order it to pay them N100 million for aggravated and exemplary damages for the serial breach of their constitutional rights.
To say the very least, Wednesday’s proceedings at the Federal High Court, Abuja, were quite absurd. It is beyond ludicrous that an agency of the sophistication and magnitude of the DSS would present such an alibi in a court of law. Assuming that the agency’s story is true, was it really saying that it had no duplicate copies? Was the file stolen the only available file? Ordinarily in circumstances such as this, there are about four files made in respect of each accused person. As a matter of fact, the number of copies increases with the number of accused persons, and even the court has a copy. So, what was the DSS really saying on Wednesday?
Besides, it is rather disturbing for the DSS to claim that robbers stole files from it. The DSS is not just any agency: it is Nigeria’s secret police. Being Nigeria’s primary intelligence agency, it is saddled with the prevention and detection of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria, the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of the country, and the prevention, detection and investigation of threats of espionage, subversion, sabotage, terrorism, separatist agitations, inter-group conflicts, economic crimes of national security dimension and threats to law and order. In addition, it is saddled with the provision of protective security for designated principal government functionaries, sensitive installations and visiting dignitaries, as well as the provision of timely advice to government on all matters of national security interest. However, over the years, it has tended to be overly dedicated to the advancement of the political interests of power holders, including hounding the opposition.
Nigerians certainly have the right to be sceptical about a national intelligence agency that cannot even deliver a case file to the court of law. Who knows what will disappear next? The accused persons in this case are being charged with terrorism. That being the case, it is surprising that the DSS could not ensure the security of all documents pertaining to their case, including those pertaining to their rights enforcement suit. Certainly, a case of such magnitude should not have been handled in such a shoddy manner. At least in part, the DSS’ action is due to the sub-text of its shabby disposition to the judiciary. It has been known to disobey court orders at will. In this regard, Nigerians may be excused for believing that it is, in the extant case, merely seeking to buy time. In any case, now that it has determined that it was “one chance robbers” who stole the case file in question, it should bust the syndicate without delay. That would be doing the nation a whole lot of good.
“One chance” robbery is such a felony, especially when it involves critical case files.