The State Security Service (SSS) has finally released five ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ protesters, one of them a blind saxophonist, who were arrested by the agency about a month ago at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja.
Ben Manasseh, Anene Udoka, Henry Nwodo, Samuel Larry and Samuel Gabriel (the saxophonist), were arrested for wearing T-shirts with ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ inscription to the church on July 4.
Their lawyer, Tope Temokun, confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that they were released in Abuja on Tuesday.
This came after a week of the agency’s disobedience to a court order for the detainees’ release.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of the five detainees on July 26.
Instead of obeying the order, the SSS rushed to a chief magistrate’s court in Mpape, Abuja, on July 28, to arraign them on charges of disturbance of peace.
Further demonstrating its disregard for judicial authorities, the spy agency refused to release the detainees despite being notified that they had met their bail conditions.
Mr Temokun, bent on enforcing the order of court releasing his clients, commenced a contempt suit seeking to have the SSS director-general, Yusuf Bichi, warned for his disobedience to the court order.
PREMIUM TIMES reported on Monday that Mr Temokun filed a ‘Notice of Consequences of Order of Court, also known as Form 48, at the Federal High Court in Abuja on July 30, essentially warning Mr Bichi of a possibility of being jailed if he continued to disobey the court order.
Confirming the release of the detainees in his Wednesday’s statement, Mr Temokun said the SSS “bowed to the fireworks from the people of Nigeria”.
“Yes, we have fought a good battle in court,” Mr Temokun said, while he also commended Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, the media, and Nigerians in general for their roles in the campaign for the release of the detainees.
Speaking of his clients’ arrest, Mr Temokun said the young Nigerians “attended the Dunamis church in Abuja, to seek God’s intervention, according to them, for Nigeria at this difficult time.
“Hardly did it occur to them that the gate to the church could also turn to the gate to prison”.
Pending N50million suits
The five activists still have separate fundamental rights enforcement suits they instituted against SSS at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the five activists filed separate suits for the enforcement of their fundamental rights at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
They each asked for N10million in damages against the defendants comprising, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the pastor-in-charge of Dunamis church where the plaintiffs were arrested, Paul Enenche.
Filed along with their suits was a preliminary application asking for an order compelling the SSS to release them or produce them in court.
Ruling on the application on July 26, the judge, Anwuli Chikere chose to order their release, a decision she based on the grounds that there were no pending charges against them.
The plaintiffs were arrested at the church for wearing shirts with the ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ inscription, a sign associated with activists calling for President Buhari’s removal on the account of his alleged incompetence in the handling of the worsening security and economic situations in the country.
Their lawyer, Mr Temokun, argued in the separate suits, filed on July 8that his clients are entitled to “fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression and the press, right to freedom from discrimination and right to personal liberty.”
According to him, the rights are guaranteed under sections 35, 38, 39 and 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria constitution and under Articles 1, 2, 6, 8 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.”
They are “sacred rights which can only be curtailed in accordance with the law,” Mr Temokun wrote in the court documents.
He also said the “arrest and continued detention” of his clients “for wearing a clothing apparel with an inscription of ‘BUHARI MUST GO!’ without a bail or arraignment, by men and officers under the command of the 1st, 2nd and 4th respondents (SSS, SSS boss, and Dunamis church’s pastor) “constitute a very oppressive violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.”