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State Security Service has no legal power to arrest, detain anybody — Sowore’s legal team




THE State Security Services (SSS), contrary to what has become its tradition, is not empowered by the law to make arrests and detain people, the Falana and Falana’s Chambers has argued.

The law firm, headquartered in Abuja and known for its constitutional law and human rights services, is representing Sahara Reporters Publisher Omoyele Sowore, who has been detained for nearly 20 weeks by the SSS, despite multiple court orders granting him bail.

It pointed out the provision of the law in a document titled, A Memorandum on the Invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja and Disruption of Judicial Proceedings by the Operatives of the State Security Service. The document, which was obtained by The ICIR, is signed by the firm’s principal partner, Funmi Falana, and was shared with the Senate on Thursday.

“It is also to be noted that the SSS lacks the power to arrest and detain any person. The functions of the SSS are clearly spelt out in Section 2(3)(a), (b), and (c) and (4) of the Act,” the firm said referring to the National Security Agencies Act, which established the SSS.

The Act states that: “The State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for: (a) the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; (b) the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and (c) such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.”

Falana and Falana’s Chambers added that it is clear from the legislation that “the SSS is not in any way invested with the power to arrest and detain suspects”.

“There is no law empowering the SSS to either arrest or detain any suspect. No law authorised its operatives to wear masks! The law is clear on this,” the firm added.

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What the security agency is supposed to do, it said, is to pass information detected to relevant agencies, which have the legal mandate to arrest, detain, and prosecute.

“It is not within its powers to assume such responsibility by arrest and detaining such suspect. This barbaric recourse to lawlessness, brute force, disregard for the rule of law and separation of powers by the SSS reminiscent of the authoritarians and oppressive jackboot era must be thoroughly investigated and the culprits made to face the full weight of the law.

“To say that this incident has further diminished Nigeria’s stature across the globe is stating the obvious.”

The chambers stressed the importance of the separation of powers and independence of all three arms of government.

“A situation where operatives of the SSS, an agency of the executive arm of government brazenly disrupted the lawful activities and proceedings of another arm of government and unleashed mayhem and pandemonium on the judiciary would definitely spell doom for the concept of separation of powers in Nigeria,” it warned.

The Senate had, on Wednesday, invited Sowore’s lead counsel, Femi Falana, as part of a probe into the invasion of the Federal High Court in Abuja by SSS operatives to rearrest the Sahara Reporters Publisher.

Author profile

'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via aadebajo@icirnigeria.org or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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