Condemnation has trailed the conduct of the Department of State Services at the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday during the court appearance of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
The DSS took Emefiele before the court for arraignment on Tuesday but rearrested and whisked him away despite that the court granted him bail and ordered that he should be remanded at the Ikoyi facility of the Nigerian Correctional Services.
The situation led to a clash between DSS operatives and prison officials.
Emefiele was arraigned on two counts of illegal firearms possession before Justice Nicholas Oweibo.
He was brought before the court in a white Hilux van accompanied by heavily-armed DSS operatives.
On arrival on the court premises on Tuesday morning, Emefiele, who wore a white jalamia and looked frail, was immediately whisked into the courtroom.
When the charges were read to him, Emefiele, however, pleaded not guilty.
The defence lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN), who led four other senior advocates, moved an application for Emefiele’s bail.
But the DSS counsel, Mrs Nkiru Jones-Nebo, objected to the bail, saying she had not been served with a copy of the application.
However, Justice Oweibo, in a ruling granted Emefiele bail in the sum of N20m with one surety in like sum.
The judge, however, ordered that he should be remanded in the Ikoyi custodial facility of the Nigeria Correctional Services pending the perfection of the bail conditions.
The judge, subsequently, adjourned till November 14 for trial.
However, heavy drama ensued after the court proceedings, as DSS operatives laid siege outside the courtroom to re-arrest Emefiele.
The situation, which led to a face-off between DSS operatives and men of the Nigerian Correctional Services, saw Emefiele stuck in the courtroom long after the conclusion of court proceedings.
In the ensuing battle for control, the prison commander was ruffled and his uniform was torn, while he was being dragged towards the DSS van by DSS operatives who swarmed on him.
The situation angered Emefiele’s family members and lawyers, who accused the DSS of acting lawlessly and disrespecting the court.
A man who gave his name as George and introduced himself as Emefiele’s brother described the development as unfortunate in a democratic dispensation.
“Three courts have said release him on bail, he’s not running away for God’s sake. He has served this nation for nine years, where is he going to go to? All his life is in Nigeria here.
“You can imagine a situation where two military federal government apparatus are fighting themselves, manhandling the commander of the prison commission, it is a disgrace to this nation, it is a complete disgrace,” George said.
Condemning the development in an interview with news coreespondent, human rights lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegoruwa (SAN), said, “I believe that the President is aware of the actions of the DSS; it is giving a bad image to this administration, where security agencies are engaging in a physical scuffle in open court to the extent of tearing their uniforms, which is a symbol of authority of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and desecrating the hallowed chambers of the court without respect for the judge.
“The videos I saw today was a total contempt of the authority of the judiciary because what we are saying is that once anybody is within the premises of the court, you have to respect the authority.”
Similarly, Prof Sam Erugo (SAN), said the refusal of the DSS to allow the correctional services to take Emefiele into their custody marked another embarrassing day for the Nigerian government.
He said, “It is very obvious that DSS is acting as if there is no rule of law in Nigeria. I think somebody has to tell them that they are going to the extreme.
“I think they should tell them that there is rule of law in Nigeria.”
Another lawyer, Okerechidum Nnamdi, said no institution of government should be above the law.
Nnamdi said, “They can’t be above the law because they are a creation of a piece of legislation; they can’t be above the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; as they must act in accordance with the law.”
The defendant’s lead counsel, Daudu, also decried the development.
“He has been brought to court and has been granted bail. You can see the vehicles of the DSS and that of the Correctional Service. I must tell you that because of the delay in perfecting the bail conditions, the officials of the Ikoyi Prison have legal obligations to take him to Ikoyi Prison.
“Ikoyi Prison is not far from the court and it’s a federal institution. Why they want him in their custody is what beats my imagination. But, what is more, devastating is the fact that the DSS came to court with two counts and the court, in its discretion, granted him bail, but you still want to arrest the person, because the court said to take him to the correctional centre.”