By Adewole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
THE raging controversy over the alleged invasion of the Ekiti State House of Assembly by the Directorate of State Services (DSS) may not have been finally laid to rest. There are speculations that 11 other lawmakers have been put on the police watch list. Reason for this is yet unknown. But it appears the storm is not ye t over.
The Special Adviser on Communication and New Media, Lere Olayinka, on Wednesday, March 30, raised the alarm that policemen in Abuja were in the state to arrest 11 lawmakers and some government functionaries. Some of the lawmakers have since gone underground, relocating to Ibadan, capital city of Oyo State and vowed that they would never betray governor Fayose. They made it crystal clear that they remained unrepentant loyalists of the governor. The latest development, according to the lawmakers, is part of the alleged plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government to subdue the governor, who has been very critical of the Buhari administration. When the news broke on March 4 that officials of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) had stormed the Assembly Complex of Ekiti State, and allegedly whisked away four lawmakers to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), mixed reactions had trailed the development. Those who sympathize with Governor Ayodele Fayose and the lawmakers were amazed and furious, decrying the illegality and recklessness of such action, while in some quarters, others held that Governor Fayose and the lawmakers deserve the treatment, arguing that the governor’s critical stance, which had become over-bearing was responsible for the Federal government’s alleged clamp down on the state functionaries. The remaining members of the state House led by Speaker Kola Oluwawole addressed a press conference to declare their total loyalty to Governor Fayose.
They alleged that 18 members of the House had been penned down by the Federal Government and All Progressives Congress (APC) with the aim of coercing them to sign an already prepared impeachment notice on governor Fayose. The lawmakers, who alleged that the DSS men who stormed the Assembly Complex shot sporadically in the air, warned that no acts of intimidation, harassment and coercion would make them betray Fayose. They urged those allegedly using the DSS against the governor to perish the thought of coercing them to impeach him and immediately release the arrested members. They said: “The plot is to harass, intimidate and embarrass top officials of the Ayodele Fayose government because of his critical stance on the Buhari’s government.” The lawmakers recalled that the Federal Government had used the same tactics 10 years ago to truncate democracy in Ekiti State and alleged that President Buhari is using the head of DSS, Mr Lawal Daura from his state, (Katsina) and his men, who are playing exactly the same role played between 1984 and 1985 by the National Security Organisation (NSO) under Lawal Rafindadi, also from Katsina, to muzzle the opposition. Prominent legal practitioners in the country, also reacted to the development, some condemning DSS’s alleged invasion as illegal and reckless, others alleging that it was an act of intimidation from the FG which the lawmakers must resist with the last drop of their blood. Yet, others charged the lawmakers to seek legal protection against the alleged infringement on their fundamental human rights by the DSS. One of the lawyers and a rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, described the alleged invasion as curious and condemnable and an affront on democracy, adding that the hallowed chamber had been desecrated.
He said: “The action of the DSS in invading the Ekiti State House of Assembly and taking away a lawmaker is condemnable and undemocratic. A House of Assembly is hallowed and sacred and should never be desecrated on any account.” The commissioner for Finance and Business Development, Mr. Toyin Ojo was also picked up, but was granted his freedom a few days after. He spoke with reporters at the government office, Osuntokun Hall, shortly after his release, and described DSS’ interrogation as based on mere rumours and unfounded allegations. On March 9, the Federal High Court sitting inA do- Ekiti ordered the DSS to release Akanni from detention with immediate effect. However, DSS turned deaf ears to the court order and refused to release the lawmaker. Responding to the court’s order, governor Fayose in his usual fearless and frank manner, lashed out at the DSS, saying that they were taking on issues beyond their brief. Fayose wondered why the DSS, saddled with the statutory function of protecting the country against threats to internal security, would be involved in arresting lawmakers over alleged criminal offence, a duty, he said, belongs to the police. The governor said: “Beyond this judgment, I have always said that the DSS are taking on more than their brief.T hey have become an instrument of oppression. They are now taking up the job of the police, the EFCC and all other security agencies.” “You would recall that they were at theA kwa Ibom Government House to harass the governor. They came to Ekiti too to do the same thing . But this is Ekiti, they are taking on a wrong customer.”
Unperturbed, DSS still held the lawmaker in its custody. A drama played out some days later when an impromptu and very brief press conference was called at the Exco Hall of the Government office, Ado Ekiti on March 12. Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, in an emotion laden tone, read out the press release disclosing that there were fears that Akanni slumped and died in DSS’ custody that morning. Therefore, the state government demanded that the DSS either deny or confirm the claim. A few hours after the news of the rumoured death of Akanni spread to the public, DSS ate the humble pie and showed Akanni in a cable news to debunk the rumour. He noted that Akanni and others were invited for interrogation over issues relating to security breaches, which he said the Service had a statutory mandate over. Responding to DSS, the lawmakers in Ekiti reiterated their support for governor Fayose and demanded again that the detained lawmaker be released. They alleged that the Federal Government and APC allegedly offered them $1 million, as well as juicy positions in the House as compensation for them to impeach Fayose, an offer they claimed was turned down to protect their integrity and show their commitment to Fayose. They also queried alleged visitations to some alma mater of some members of the House by persons who introduced themselves as officials of DSS to verify their academic qualifications. The lawmakers further took the battle against the DSS outside Ekiti, to embassies of United Kingdom, (UK) United States of America (USA) and the National Assembly to press home their demand for the release of their colleague. Consequently, the National Assembly commissioned an investigative panel headed by Senator Mohammed Shaba, former Governor of Kwara State, to look into the alleged invasion of the state assembly.
On March 22, 18 days after he had been detained, the news broke that Akanni had been dropped in a private hospital in Abuja where he was receiving treatment for alleged illness he developed while in detention. March 23, Ekiti was agog for Honourable Akanni who was brought to the state by Governor Fayose in company with another detained and released aide, Mr. Ropo Ogunjobi, the Special Adviser to governor Fayose on Internal Revenue, aboard a chopper marked 5N-BRL which landed at Christ’s School playing ground in Ado Ekiti, where they were welcomed by mammoth crowd, comprising members of the House of Assembly, led by the speaker, Hon Kola Oluwawole. Akanni, while addressing the crowd, he said his arrest and detention had further fortified his loyalty for Fayose , describing the governor as a reliable leader. His words: Fayose is our leader and I can’t betray him. Ekiti people must stand behind him. Mr. Governor, I am assuring you that I will always stand by you,” he assured. Ogunjobi revealed that the DSS had during interrogation accused him of laundering a sum of N22 billion being amount paid on federal roads to Ekiti by the federal government into Fayose’s accounts, which he described as a blatant lie. “They even said I helped Fayose to launder another N1.3 billion out of the N2.5 billion ecological fund released to the state. I said all these were lies. I can’t lie against Mr. Governor”. Responding, Fayose said: “Today, I am excited because we have won the battle again. They took Hon Akanni to Abuja as a captive, but he is back now as a hero, shame onto DSS, shame onto our oppressors. “Our economy is bad, people are losing their jobs on daily basis, but what theA PC knows how to do best is to lie to the people.T hey have no answer to this bad economic situation. When PDP was in government, a dollar was N200, but today, it is almost N400, shame onto them. Apparently to reward Akanni for remaining loyal to him in the face of daunting challenges, governor Fayose during a get together with the state lawmakers, presented a car gift to Akanni, describing him as a loyal and patriotic citizen of the state.