Lawyers, representing Gabriel Ogbonna, an Aba-based human rights lawyer illegally detained since March by the Department of State Services (DSS), at the behest of Abia state governor Okezie Ikpeazu, has written to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, asking for his intervention.
The lawyers also wrote to the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro.
Mr. Ogbonna continue to languish in DSS custody, despite court judgments ordering his release. His only offence was publishing articles on his social media page critical of Ikpeazu government in Abia State.
Over 20 policemen in company of Chief of Staff to the Abia Governor, Tony Agbazuere, and former Commissioner of Police, Ene Okon, had stormed Mr Ogbonna’s chambers on March 24 to arrest him. He was arraigned alongside another person for cybercrimes and publishing false and threatening messages through the internet against the Governor Ikpeazu before an Umuahia magistrate court. But due to problem of lack of jurisdiction, the court could not hear the case and he was remanded at a correctional facility in the state capital until April 28, when he was arraigned before the Federal High Court in Umuahia and was granted bail.
However, Ogbonna was re-arrested by DSS agents on his way out of the correctional facility in Umuahia on the same day after he had perfected the bail conditions.
The lawyer was later moved to DSS headquarters in Abuja, where he has since been held without any charges against him in a democracy.
It is understood that Ogbonna has been denied access to relatives, friends or his legal representative since he was transferred to Abuja.
On June 29, the Federal High court in Umuahia ordered that the DSS release him unconditionally, and awarded N1.5 million damages in his favour. That judgement was snubbed by the secret police.
The DSS also refused to present him before an Abuja High Court, in a suit challenging the infringement of Ogbonna’s human rights. The case was adjourned to July 17.
Reacting to DSS’s plea to further adjourn the case last Friday, Justice Aninih of the FCT High Court granted bail to Ogbonna on the conditions that he produce two sureties who have N20 million.
However, the Federal High Court, Umuahia, has struck the Abia State’s case against the lawyer, due to the failure and neglect by the police to produce him.
In the letters to the AGF and NBA, issued through Nkem Okoro and Co Chamber on Thursday, the lawyers requested the intervention of Messrs Malami and Usoro in the matter.
The letter to Mr. Malami noted that Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law reigns supreme.
“No arm or agent of the government should be seen to be above the law. The conduct of the Director-General of the Department of the State Security Service by flagrantly disregarding and contemptible disobeying the judgment/order of the Federal High Court by which he was directed to release the Applicant forthwith, is to say the least, very shameful and regrettable,” the letter said.
The health of Mr. Ogbonna is fast deteriorating with his lengthy and continued detention, it added.