THE Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, yesterday raised the alarm over alleged siege by the Department of State Security, DSS, operatives at its head office in Abuja.
In a petition to DSS’s Director-General, titled ‘Intimidation & Profiling of Civil Society Groups During the Yuletide’, its Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), the group alleged among others, “On Monday the 27th of December 2021, Operatives of your agency, the Department of State Security Services (DSS) stormed the premises of our office, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, the National Chapter of Transparency International, TI Nigeria at No 16 POW Mafemi Crescent, Off Solomon Lar Way, Jabi.
“Laying siege, the operatives demanded to see the Chief Security Officer of the building. On learning about this, our initial thought was that these were individuals masquerading as DSS agents considering the fact that this was not just during the holiday period, but it was on a day declared as a public holiday by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“This thought was further reinforced by the fact that there was no prior notice, invitation, or a pending request from your office regarding any of such visit. However, when we put a call through to the number dropped with our office security personnel, an individual further confirmed that he was an agent of your agency providing details of his position.
“Sir, considering recent activities of criminals using official security covers to perpetrate wanton criminalities in the recent past, we want you to use your good office to investigate those who carried out this visit and for what purpose(s). We will also request that you call these operatives to order and charge them to be civil in their approach and not militarize our nascent democracy.
“At this point, we cannot jump to a conclusion as to the exact reasons behind this Gestapo approach. However, this kind of unprofessional visit clearly violates existential rights guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and puts the country on a global map of ‘bad policing’ and seen shrinking voices of citizens demanding good governance in the interest of all.
“Visits like these further feed fears that the country is gradually snowballing into autocracy with the regular abuse of powers from those parading themselves as agents of the State. As an organization, we believe in the rule of law.
”We have complied with all statutes and thereby have not violated any law. We urge you to use your good office to put an end to this trend of shrinking civic space and the ongoing attempt to weaken democratic institutions to which the civil society community represents an aspect.
“We look forward to your immediate intervention.”
Reacting, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, condemned the invasion, asking the federal government to end the growing threats, harassment, and intimidation of independent civil society groups, CSGs, and respect Nigerians’ human rights.
In a statement, SERAP said “We condemn the reported invasion on Monday of the Abuja office of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the National Chapter of Transparency International in Nigeria by the Department of State Services (DSS).
“The Buhari administration must end the growing threats, harassment, and intimidations of independent civil society groups, and respect Nigerians’ human rights. It is essential that civil society groups pushing for accountability are able to do their work without fear of reprisals.
“Civil society groups are critical for respect of human rights and the rule of law in a democratic society. Attempts to silence them are counter-productive and shameful. The Buhari administration must respect Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
“We call on Nigeria’s partners and @antonioguterres @mbachelet @UN_SPExperts @UN_HRC @MaryLawlorhrds @cvoule @Irenekhan @UNTreatyBodies to actively support civil society groups and to speak up loudly for the right to defend human rights in Nigeria. #StandUp4HumanRights.”