The family of Mr. Emperor Ogbonna, an Aba based lawyer has lamented his continued detention by the Department of State Security (DSS) in Abuja despite the order of a federal high court, Umuahia, which directed the agency to release him.
The lawyer was alleged to have made an online publication stating that the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu allegedly visited a shrine outside the country where he was said to have sworn an oath of allegiance and secrecy to the former Governor of the State. The online publication was alleged to have been made on the Facebook page of Ogbonna.
Ogbonna was subsequently arrested by the officers of the Nigerian Police Force and charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia with the offence of terrorism, but he denied being the originator of the post, saying he only re-shared it.
A Federal High Court in Umuahia eventually granted him bail on the condition that he be released to a lawyer of not less than 20 years at the bar. He was taken back to Umuahia Prisons, while planning to perfect his bail, but Prison authorities allegedly released him to the DSS officials on ‘order from above’.
Following this development, his lawyers returned to the court and filed an action challenging his continuous detention. Respondents in the suit marked FHC/UM/CS/40/2020 are director general of SSS, the SSS, Abia state director of SSS, I.J Ibrahim and A.C.B Agbazuere.
Delivering judgment June 29, 2020, Justice D. E Osiagor held: “I therefore hold that neither investigation nor widening scope of investigation can justify the arrest and detention of the applicant from April 28, 2020 until now. The arrest and continued detention of the applicant from April 28 by the first to third respondents is unlawful and a violation of the applicants fundamental right as the arrest and continued detention for the past two months run contrary to sections 35and 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
“The first to third respondents are hereby ordered to immediately release the applicant unconditionally or charge him only to a court of competent jurisdiction. For the past two months, the first to third respondents have hosted the applicant contrary to the dictates of his will. He has not been charged nor tried in any court of law in Nigeria contrary to sections 35(4) of the 1999 constitution with respect to these facts, thus evoking the constitutional mandate to order a conditional or unconditional release of the applicant.” The judge further awarded N1.5 million damages against the respondents for holding him without charge.
His younger brother, James Ogbonna lamented that the lawyer has been kept incommunicado ever since and that his family, including his wife who was delivered of a baby through caesarian process in his absence have been traumatised by his continuous detention
The national publicity secretary of the NBA, Mr. Kunle Edun in a statement, urged the DSS to release him. He said: “The Nigerian Bar Association, therefore, demands that the State Security Service (DSS) and the Abia State Government immediately release Emperor Ogbonna to face his charge before the Federal High Court, for which plea has already been taken and the matter adjourned for hearing.
“The NBA trusts that the Abia State Government and DSS would not give the impression that they are above the law of the land and do not have confidence in the credibility of their complaint before the Federal High Court. The NBA refuses to accept popular opinion that the harassment of Ogbonna could be a subtle attempt to intimidate him to kowtow to any untoward compromise; if it is true, then it amounts to interference with the judicial processes by State officials who should know better, and this would be highly frowned at.”