A group of human rights lawyers yesterday berated the Department of State Services, DSS, over a post on its official tweeter handle which they said denigrated the legal profession.
The legal practitioners, who had earlier initiated a contempt case against the Director General of the DSS, Mr. Yusuf Bichi, over the prolonged detention of the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, described as insulting a tweet by the secret police which described them as “charge and bail lawyers.”
Leader of the group, Mr. Tijani Ahmed, who briefed newsmen at the Federal High Court in Abuja, further accused the security agency of threatening to frame them up with terrorism-related charges.
According to him, the DSS had in the said tweet, linked them with both the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Eastern Security Network, ESN.
He said the offensive tweet on the official handle of the DSS, read: “Charge and bail, overzealous uninformed IPOB/ESN lawyer Maxwell Okpara mobilises other like-minded lawyers against DGSS. Futile Efforts. Well, Nigerians, beware! This is in bad faith. Transferred aggression.
“A Biafran Republic agitator and outlawed IPOB counsel defending the suspended CBN governor. Is IPOB defending one of theirs? What a contradiction…. hmmm…what’s the connection? May Maxwell be properly educated on points of law, please.”
The lawyers maintained that it was wrong for the security agency to use its platform to insult the legal profession.
“At about 6am when we met this morning (yesterday), the tweet was still there on the handle of the DSS.
“This was about 17 hours after it had been posted and had really gone viral. At that time, it had been seen by nearly two million people globally, generated over 3600 comments, retweeted almost 5000 times and liked more than 2500 times.
“The tweets, which have been greeted by national outrage and condemnation, are still on the security agency’s handle.
“In the same vein, the tweet by the DSS has also exposed very clearly to the world that the persecution Mr. Godwin Emefiele suffers today is largely due to ethnic profiling as directed by the DG DSS.
“The fact that Mr. Emefiele is Igbo and attained the height of CBN governor to Mr. Bichi is an abomination, hence his resolve to see that Emefiele is pulled down because, to him, all Igbo are IPOB/ESN terrorists.”
While urging President Bola Tinubu to intervene in the matter by calling the security agency to order, the group said it would, aside from writing a petition to the United Nations, the European Union, as well as governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, equally approach the court to seek redress.
It will be recalled that the human rights lawyers had filed Form 48, which is the notification of consequences of disobedience to a court order, and Form 49, which seeks to commit an alleged contemnor to prison, against the DSS DG, before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
In an affidavit they attached to the applications, the group accused the DSS boss of disobeying subsisting court judgements, with regards to Emefiele’s arrest and detention.
Specifically, they claimed that the security agency and its DG acted in breach of a judgement of the court delivered by Justice M. A. Hassan, which they claimed restrained the Respondents from arresting, detaining or interrogating the embattled CBN governor, for offences connected to terrorism financing, money laundering, round tripping and financial crimes of national security dimension.
They alleged that without appealing to set aside the extant court order, the Respondents, proceeded to arrest and detain Emefiele “for well over a month while shopping for evidence.”
Emefiele asks the court to grant him bail
Meanwhile, Emefiele has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to grant him bail.
Emefiele is seeking bail on self-recognizance pending the determination of the charge filed against him by the federal government.
The bail application, premised on nine grounds, was filed by a team of 10 lawyers led by Joseph Daudu.
Emefiele argued that the charges for which he was accused are bailable.
He said he has never been convicted of a crime and should enjoy the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, adding that he is not a flight risk.
Emefiele also said granting him bail would afford him adequate time to prepare his defence.
He added that since investigations have been concluded, there is no likelihood of interference on his part.
The defendant pledged to show up for trial on time and expressed his willingness to offer responsible sureties required by the court.
Emefiele has been in DSS custody since June.