- How I was harassed by operatives of the DSS
A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has advised the Federal Government to tender an unreserved apology to a serving judge of Federal high court, Dr Justice Nnamdi Dimgba over the purported harassment he suffered in the hands of men of the Department of State Service (DSS) between October 7 and 8 when houses of serving judges accused of corruption were raided.
Falana (SAN) who gave the advice in a paper he delivered at the opening ceremony of the Law Week of the Enugu chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association on Monday said the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), should accept liability for the harassment suffered by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, during the recent raid on his house by operatives of the DSS because he did no wrong.
He said, “Since the Attorney-General of the Federation has admitted that he authorised the raid on some judges’ homes at night, he is vicariously liable for the illegality of the invasion of the house of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court.
“From the information at my disposal, the ‘offence’ committed by the judge was that he had ordered the DSS to produce a detainee in a fundamental right application pending in his court.
“Since Justice Dimgba has never been associated, even remotely, with corrupt practices, he deserves an unreserved apology from the federal government.
“In prosecuting the war against corruption, the DSS should not be allowed to harass judges whose fidelity to integrity cannot be questioned.”
He said even though he supported the campaign aimed to rid the judiciary of its bad eggs, the “nocturnal raid” on the houses of the judges was unacceptable.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that Justice Dimgba had himself expressed disappointment with the way he was treated by men of the DSS at the time and had threatened to sue the agency, an option he did not pursue.
How I was harassed by operatives of the DSS
Opening up on his ordeals when the matter was still fresh in a letter of protest he wrote to the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Mahmud Mohammed dated October 10, 2016, Justice Dimgba had said he could recollect that an officer of the DSS, Ahamed Ahmad in the Office of the Director General of the security agency had written a petition alleging corruption against him.
He said the petition was dated August 5, 2016 and addressed to the National Judicial Council for its investigation.
Justice Dimgba said that as soon as the NJC got the petition, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed issued him a query attaching the petition.
The CJN who is the Chairman of the NJC demanded for his reply to the query.
The judge said he quickly answered the petition with a 31-paragraph response, detailing all he knew regarding the issue in question.
The reply to the petition which has been seen and personally signed by the judge, Dr Nnamdi O. Dimgba was dated September 4.
He said with his response, the stage was set for the NJC to either probe further if it was not satisfied with his response or set up a committee to interface him with his accusers.
However, Justice Dimgba said that while the petition was still receiving attention at the NJC, the DSS began to harass him and his support staff in the court.
He said his registrar, Blessing Ugwu was invited by the DSS on September 15, 2016, fishing for evidence from her against him.
He narrated that the woman registrar was detained for a whole day before she was let go.
He added that at another unspecified date, she was re-invited, but this time, the DSS was harsher with her.
He said the operatives of the DSS collected her phone to search if they would be able to get any link between her and the judge relating to the case or any other at all but that they got nothing.
He added that they also invited another registrar in the court 4 of the Abuja division of the Federal high court looking for incriminating evidence against him which they could not get.
Justice Dimgba said that was the pattern of his ordeals in the hands of men of the DSS until October 7 when over 20 operatives of the DSS again in five operational vehicles stormed his house to search without search warrant.
Hear him: “On Friday 7th October, 2016 by 8pm at night, a team of over 20 DSS operatives in about 5 operational vehicles invaded my official residence at No 30 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E saying that they had come to search my residence.
“When I asked, they first presented me with a search warrant for a No 19 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E and which had a John Inyang Okoro as Defendant.
“When I explained to them that my house address was not 19 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E, and that my name was certainly not John Inyang Okoro on the search warrant, the DSS team leader explained that there was a mix-up, and then presented me with another search warrant for 30 Ogbemudia Crescent, Apo Legislative Quarters, Zone E but which had A.F.A. Ademola as the Defendant.
“When I also explained that I was not A.F.A. Ademola but that my name was Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, the DSS team leader stated that whatever was the case, (they) the DSS were under instructions from above to search Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s house.
” When I tried to resist the search of my house in the absence of any search warrant for me and my residence, the DSS operatives became physical with me and out of fear for my life, given the level of aggression, I managed to depart my residence to seek refuge in the garden of the house of a Senator from Ebonyi State who resides in the house adjacent to mine.
“I endured the whole ordeal in this open garden as the Senator was away.
“Thereafter, the DSS operatives turned on my 18 year old nephew who resides with me, by name Ifeanyi Anieke and my driver, John Albert, beat them to pulp with their guns, and forced their way into my residence, and ransacked the entire house in the course of execution of a non-existent search warrant.
“When the DSS operatives finished and could not find anything incriminating such as money in local and/or foreign currencies in my house as they had hoped, they then departed my residence.
“In leaving my residence, I wish to note that the DSS operatives went away with my work bag containing a number of case files which I had planned to work on for the weekend in relation to Judgments adjourned for Monday 10th October, 2016 and Tuesday 11th October, 2016, and also my own copy of the Reply dated 4th September, 2016 which I had sent to the NJC to the DSS’s Petition against me.
“The case files taken away by the NJC are the following: a) FHC/CS/1081/14 – NNAMANI C.N. DAVIDSON VS. PDP & 2 ORS; b) FHC/CS/180/16 – UGWUALA CHRISTIAN ONYEBUCHI ESQ VS. A.E.P.B & 4 ORS; and c) FHC/CS/203/16 – WOOD & FRAMES LTD & ANOR VS. CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION & ANOR,” Justice Dimgba added.
He however pleaded with the CJN and the entire NJC to prevail on the DSS to stop harassing him for nothing.