Niyi Odebode, Olalekan Adetayo, Eniola Akinkuotu, Adelani Adepegba and Olaleye Aluko
The Presidency is still waiting for the official reports on what transpired between the officials of the Department of State Services and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Abuja on Tuesday, The PUNCH has learnt.
Officials of the sister agencies were on Tuesday involved in a showdown when the EFCC operatives attempted to arrest a former Director General of the DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong; and a former DG of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke.
The PUNCH learnt on Wednesday that the issue of the face-off came up at the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the day.
A cabinet member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said council members resolved that the issue could only be handled properly after the submission of official reports by the affected agencies.
The heads of the two agencies are not members of FEC.
He said, “The issue came up during the ‘Any Other Business’ segment of the council meeting today (Wednesday). The truth of the matter is that as of the time of the meeting, the only information available to the government on the issue was the media report on the matter.
“Government’s business is not operated in that manner. So, the resolution was that we will wait for official reports from the affected agencies.
“That, I am sure, will be coming in very soon.”
Report DSS to Buhari, Sagay tells Magu
But the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), advised Magu to report what transpired between the EFCC and officials of the DSS to the President.
Sagay, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said Magu should write a letter on the clash between the EFCC and the DSS to Buhari.
Officials of the DSS and EFCC were involved in a showdown for over 13 hours on Tuesday when the EFCC operatives arrived at the homes of a former Director General of the DSS, Ita Ekpenyong, and an ex-boss of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, to arrest them.
Ekpenyong, who served as the head of the DSS from 2010 to 2015, had been invited by the EFCC for his alleged role in the arms scam involving a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), and other service chiefs who have since been arraigned.
Sagay said, “I think the EFCC should refer the matter to the President so that he can take action because the President is the overall boss and if people are misbehaving like that, preventing agencies from doing their work, then there should be a penalty for misconduct.”
The PACAC chairman also described the fiasco as unfortunate, adding that no one was above the law.
Sagay said, “We all know that the law empowers the EFCC to investigate, arrest and prosecute and they have the right to interrogate and invite you and if you refuse to come, they can arrest you. So, anybody, who refuses, that is engaging in lawlessness and is trying to turn the country into a chaotic state of lawlessness which is certainly not good for the country.
“No one is immune from arrest except the President, Vice-President, governor and deputy governor.”
Sagay disagreed with those saying the EFCC should have written to the DSS before attempting to arrest the former DG.
He said, “The DSS procedures do not supersede the laws of the land. The EFCC Act does not require the agency writing to anybody first. They cannot make a law that supersedes that of the National Assembly. The excuses of the DSS are just a way of covering up sheer lawlessness.”
It’s flagrant disregard for court order
On his part, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), berated the DSS for obstructing the EFCC.
He further stated that the incident should not be treated as a mere ‘inter-agency face-off’ but a flagrant disregard for court orders.
Falana said, “It is wrong to view what occurred as an inter-agency face-off. Since warrants of arrest and search were validly issued by a Magistrate Court, the prevention of the arrest was a clash between impunity and rule of law. The security personnel who shielded the suspects from arrest committed the offence of obstruction of justice punishable under the EFCC Act.”
The activist said since the Presidency had said the EFCC was free to investigate the former NIA boss, the DSS had no reason to prevent the anti-graft agency from doing its work.
Also civil rights groups described as shameful, the clash between the officers of the DSS and the EFCC.
The groups, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, said the clash was an embarrassment to the President.
The CDHR described the clash as ugly and sickening, asking the DSS Director-General, Lawan Daura, to caution his men.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said this on Wednesday, noting that the DSS men also allegedly cordoned off and prevented the arrest of Oke, a former DG of the National Intelligence Agency.
Ugwummadu said, “Yesterday’s face-off between the two security agencies was dishonourable and unethical; such reprehensible conduct has consequences.
“We express worry over the overzealousness of the DSS officers and their less-than-average conduct as public officers. We call for appropriate sanctions to avoid a future occurrence.
“The repeated and clandestine approach where DSS officers mask themselves is also becoming very worrisome.
“We therefore call on the DG to tame the excesses and allow law enforcement agencies to carry out their functions without hindrance to avoid any further form of embarrassment that would send the wrong signal.”
Also a security analyst, Ben Okezie, said the DSS had been antagonising the anti-graft commission, noting that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had failed to resolve the matter in a sensible manner.
He asked Buhari to intervene and sanction the two agencies for ridiculing each other.
Okezie said, “It is very unfortunate that the two security agencies cannot see eye to eye; the DSS has been trampling on the EFCC and the Attorney General has not been handling the issues well.
“In other climes, such things don’t happen, you hardly see the FBI antagonising other agencies. The President should intervene and caution them. He should rebuke or sanction any officer who puts his office to ridicule,” he counselled.
A severity consultant, Lt. Col. Sola Oremade (retd.), described the clash as a shame and an indictment on the two agencies and called for the dismissal of their leadership.
“This is a shame and the incident is indefensible. It is ridicule to this government and an indictment on the leadership of the two security agencies. The heads of the EFCC and the DSS should be sacked for this shameful display and indiscipline,” he noted.
Oremade said the incident indicated that the President had lost control of his security officers which he said was dangerous.
Ex-Director defends DSS
But a former Director of the DSS, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, said the EFCC had no right to investigate how the DSS funds were spent.
He said the Act establishing the DSS clearly stated that only the President could investigate the agency.
Ejiofor said, “I don’t have a problem investigating anybody but due process must be followed. By the DSS Instrument 1 of 1999, no person or agency is empowered to investigate the spending or operational matter of the DSS except the President. It is only the President that can ask for investigation. The DSS makes returns of its spending to the President annually.
“I am surprised with what is happening. We have never had it before. He (Magu) has no power or mandate to investigate the spending of the DSS. It is not done anywhere in the world.
“If he had the power, he should have gone to the DG DSS. Possibly he wants to settle scores because he was indicted by the DSS report which barred his confirmation. It has never happened in the history of this nation before.”
No going back on arrest of Ekpeyong, Oke –Magu
Meanwhile, Magu has said there is no going back on the planned arrest of Ekpeyong and Oke.
He said nobody, no matter how highly placed, was above the law of the land.
The EFCC boss spoke after he attended the inauguration of the Audit Committee on the Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets within and Outside Nigeria at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He claimed that the commission had concrete evidence against the former DSS and NIA heads.
“There must be reasons, strong reasons before we go for an arrest. Never, Never, I am not discouraged at all, rather, it energises me to do more and I am telling you, nobody is above the law,” Magu said.
He said he was not discouraged by the Tuesday face-off between his men and DSS officials.
“We are not discouraged at all. The law must take its course, nobody is above the law,” he said.
Why DSS stopped the arrest–Source
On Wednesday, the DSS kept mum on the refusal of its operatives to allow the EFCC officials to arrest Ekpeyong and Oke.
But a security source said the EFCC was prevented from arresting Ekpeyong because the anti-graft agency did not follow the due process.
The source stated that the EFCC ought to have written to the DSS on the invitation of Ekpeyong.
“The EFCC knows that the DSS operatives are guarding Ekpeyong. The normal thing is for it to write to the EFCC, instead of resorting to lawlessness. The anti-graft agency should learn to embrace the rule of law,” the DSS source said. (Punch)