Members of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions yesterday declared that the Department of State Security, DSS, erred with its alleged interference in the post election matters in Rivers State.
The committee, headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), chided the agency when its Director of Operations of the DSS, Mr Godwin Etim, who stood in for the Director-General, Mr. Lawal Daura, appear before the committee.
Daura had been summoned to appear before the committee for interrogation over allegation of interference in the affairs of the Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal based on a petition before it from the 31-member state legislature.
The petitioners alleged among others that the DSS had arrested some officials of the Independent National Election Commission, INEC and members of the state Election Petition Tribunal.
In his defence of the DSS action, Etim said that the agency acted according to the provisions of its Act, to forestall threat to national security.
According to him, the allegation of interference against the service as contained in the petition was, “unfounded, spurious and frivolous as there is no truth in it whatsoever”.
Etim said that the operatives of the DSS in Rivers State acted based on a voluminous petitions received by the agency on July 15 from the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC alleging that staff of the INEC in the state had refused to release relevant documents needed to prosecute their case before the election petition tribunal.
He said the petitioners had raised an alarm in the document that there could be anarchy and breakdown of law and order if urgent step was not taken on the petition.
The DSS director maintained tha no arrest made by his officers, explaining that some people were only invited and investigated.
“We don’t have members of Rivers INEC under our custody, but we invited them but not in custody. We did not also keep anyone overnight. We always carry out investigation before we invite people for questioning. Rivers state is highly volatile”, he added.
But the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Alla said, “We all love this country, I am saying this with all sense of responsibility. Your interpretation of the provisions of the Act establishing the DSS is the most charitable interpretation of the law”.
“When power is conferred on an individual, the interpretation should be done restrictively. The power is conferred on an institution not on an individual. There is the restriction in the provision which has to do with the threat to national security. The constitution recognises the Rivers State, the commissioner of police and the army formation.
“The most charitable interpretation of the law does not give you the power to do what you did. What is wrong with somebody to rain fire and brimstone? The attention of the police should have been brought to this.
“But if you have received information that some people would converge on Abuja to prevent National Assembly from sitting or to ensure that the president of Nigeria will not pass through a particular route, that is strictly threat to national security.
“You cannot take a localised issue that has all the interregnum to take care of it and begin to act as a big boss and tell people that you are acting on a provision that is a derivative of the Act and cannot be more powerful than the act,” he said.
Na’Allah continued: “We cannot continue to be where we are because if care is not taken, someone can just approach the court and claim gross abuse of office. Nigeria is a democracy and we will continue to march towards the freedom of individuals. Don’t try the charitable interpretation you are doing and think you are comfortable.”

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