FULL TEXT OF PRESS BRIEFING BY MIDDLE BELT RENAISSANCE GROUP HELD AT ROCKVIEW JOTEL ABUJA ON JUNE 26, 2018
2. It is common knowledge that the Directorate of State Security (DSS) arrested and detained the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Rt. Hon (Dr.) Gabriel Suswam on Thursday June 21, 2018 after he reported at their office to honour an invitation extended to him. Since his arrest, Dr. Suswam has been denied access to his lawyers, members of his family, and personal physician.
3. In addition, the Directorate has refused to inform him, or indeed anyone else, of the reason for his arrest and detention in violation of the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantee him the rights to personal liberty and fair hearing. Indeed, at the time of holding this press conference Dr. Suswam has not been charged before any Court in spite of the provisions of the Constitution that a person should be charged before a Court within 48 hours of his arrest.
4. Dr. Suswam’s arrest and detention follows a pattern of disrespect for constitutional rights and civil liberties of the Nigerian people by Nigerian security agencies. You will recall that in February 2017, this same agency arrested and then detained him for a period of 72 days without charge.
5. While the DSS has not formally informed anyone of the reasons for his arrest and detention, we have become aware that Dr. Suswam’s detention is connected to a petition ostensibly written by highly placed politicians in Benue State which alleges, among other things that,
a. He is currently harbouring, or in contact with, Mr. Terwase Agwaza a.k.a Gana – a wanted fugitive who has been on the run from the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies who seek to prosecute him for various crimes.
b. He is one of the sponsors of the incessant killings in the State.
6. Also in flagrant violation of Section 35 (1) (c) (4) & (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) the DSS has not brought Dr. Suswam before a court of law within a reasonable time.
7. We see these allegations for what they are – a ploy designed to distract the people of Benue, and indeed the Nigerian people, from the failure of the Federal Government and the Benue State government to perform its most basic function which is to guarantee the safety and security of all the Nigerian people.
We see this as the unfortunate ploy that it is – a ploy to distract the people of Benue State from the inability of its clueless and incompetent government to protect them by seeking to hang accusations for crimes on real or perceived political enemies as a basis to use the instruments of state as weapons for harassment and intimidation.
8. It is deeply saddening that instead of the politicians in power in Benue State, and in fact the entire North Central region of the country, to come up with strategies to protect people from the plot being executed to forcefully and brutally acquire their ancestral lands, and to define and protect their property rights, they are more committed to playing politics with the sorrow, tears and blood of the Nigerian people.
9. It is imperative to point out that Terwase Agwaza aka Gana was a Frankenstein monster created and empowered by desperate politicians who sought power in Benue State and, who having gained power, have lost control of him and are seeking for ways to escape their responsibility for his actions.
10. It is also imperative to point out that Benue State is currently the hotbed for a war being waged by an ethnic militia to forcefully acquire the ancestral lands of the people of North Central Nigeria to use as grazing grounds for their cattle and other livestock.
These attacks have become widespread across several states of the North Central region of the country extending to Taraba, Adamawa, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kaduna. It boggles the mind that anyone will conclude that Dr. Suswam is behind these killings.
11. This arrest and detention also show the warped state of our criminal justice system. In the developed world, upon receiving a petition or complaint about a crime the security agencies conduct and conclude their investigations before the arrest and detention of any citizen. This is to ensure the speedy commencement and conclusion of trials.
However, in Nigeria we implement a warped system that sees the security agencies arrest and detain people against whom petitions/complaints are filed without concluding investigations, if investigations are ever commenced in the first place. This is part of the reason why so many awaiting trial detainees are languishing in our detention facilities around the country.
12. Piqued by the development, a group under the aegis of Middle Belt Patriotic Front described the arrest and detention of Suswam as the height of corruption and immorality under a leadership that claims to be fighting corruption.
The body during a news conference in Abuja recently described the arrest of former Governor Suswam as an orchestrated move to inhibit and if possible extirpate him from the political arena.
13. It also described the arrest as “the height of rigging and wickedness by those that are opportune to be around the corridors of power today as the action send negative signals to all men of goodwill”.
14. We categorically join our voices with other well-meaning Nigerians to state that the action of the DSS threatens the very foundation on which democracy, justice and fair play are hinged on as it attempts to silence opposition politicians, is akin to tactics employed by fascist regimes and like that of Adolf Hitler of Germany.
15 We make bold to remind the DSS that it is set up and ran by public funds to serve the interest of the generality of the people and not to demonstrate its allegiance to the Government of the day and feed the ambition of parochial minded individuals who have bulldozed their way to power and are trying to hold onto by hook or crook even though they have not been able to discharge their responsibilities.
16. Shortly after Sen. Ehunnnaya Aberibe led a national body of the PDP on a delegation to the DG of DSS complaining that, “Now, the clampdown has indeed started. But how many of our members are they going to arrest, just because they (the government and the ruling party) are afraid of losing the (2019 presidential) election, he was also arrested by the DSS and is still under detention. This confirms the fears of the Distinguished Senator and shows a sequence of intimidation and silencing of dissenting voices.
17. It is against this backdrop that we make the following calls on the DSS to immediately:
a. To inform Dr. Gabriel Suswam, and indeed the entire country, of the reasons for his arrest and detention as provided for by Section 36 of the Constitution.
b. To grant him access to his lawyers as soon as possible as provided for by the Constitution.
c. To charge him before a court of competent jurisdiction as quickly as possible so he can defend himself of all the allegations levelled against him.
d. In the alternative, to release him unconditionally.
18. Anything less will reveal his arrest and detention as the politically motivated charade that it is.
Barr King Onoja
Middle Belt Renaissance Group