Human rights lawyer, TUNDE KOLAWOLE has narrated his ordeal in the hands of alleged Department of State Services (DSS) operatives, saying there is a grand design to ruin him and his law practice.


MEALS are supposed to be enjoyed. But sometimes meals actually turn to saw dursts (sic) in the mouth in certain circumstances and environments. And so, it was, when I left my office this evening to have late lunch at an eatry, a stone throw away.

I had hardly settled down to the meal; when this man built like a tower, comparable to the historic Cocoa House in Ibadan (when it is normally more comfortable to be regular) strolled like an elephant towards me; with his food tray in his hands. And before you could say jack, he had landed at the table on which I was the lone occupier.

As he sat down and began to uncork his giant table water; he started his raucous rantings like robot that had been wired and timed to vomit what it had been stuffed with: “IF IT WILL NOT BE EXPEDIENT TO TAKE YOU OUT QUIETLY WITH BULLETS; WE WILL TURN YOU TO RAGS AND A DESTITUTE, SUCH THAT YOU WILL HATE YOURSELF AND VOLUNTARILY TAKE YOUR OWN LIFE.”

A day or two before this encounter; the neighborhood Police Informant; who himself is all brawn and very little brain, had come within the precinct of my premises, to growl to my hearing in Yoruba language: “AMA SO E DI EDUN ARINLE. WA TARAKA. WA JIYA LAIYE WA SI JE IYA LORUN. ODE NI JERE OMO TO RI WIPE ANI JEKI OMO RE KANKAN TOJUE.”

Meaning: we will reduce you to the level of the proverbial impecunious monkey. You will lack and eat from the dustbing (sic). You will suffer here on earth and in the hereafter. We will not allow you to reap the fruits of your labour on your children.

Each time the State Security Service a.k.a. DSS and their collaborators and foot soldiers; in the transport unions, had tried one of their clandestine operations on me and did not get the desired results, they usually would immediately begin another or a new one.

As I was made to understand; these partners in crime, hate to be defeated or not to get their premeditated result. Interestingly, before they begin new antics; they usually have the temerity to put me on notice, that a new operation, was in the offing. The two hooligans had indeed put me on notice on the shapes of things to come.

When I eventually got home later in the night that fateful day I met a heap of rags; used clothes; worn out shoes; domestic kitchen wastes and sundry other things, that should ordinarily be at a refuse dump, behind my bedroom window, without knowing who had dumped them there and at what time.

But since I already had an inkling or idea of those who could have turned my premises to a refuse dump I did not make any fuss about it. I just ignored and pretended not to see the dump. It was the House Keeper who had a job to do the following day. But i knew not; the import and symbolism of the refuse, that was dumped in my premises, until the hooligans began to execute their real plans.

Through propaganda; lies; blackmail; pressure and threats, the SSS and their collaborators in the transport unions have embarked on scotched earth actions against me and my firm that is probably unprecedented in the annals of Nigerian history viz:

(a) getting clients to withdraw their briefs from our firm.

(b) getting landlords to withdraw the properties given to us to manage.

(c) sending hoodlums to vandalise properties given to us to renovate by removing aluminium windows; electric cables; pumping machines, stealing of cement, tiles, etc.

(d) making sitting tenants in the properties we manage to withhold payments of their rents.

(e) destroying to let; lease and for sale banners and boards put on properties we manage.

(f) stationing of hoodlums around the properties we manage and where there are vacant apartments to scare prospectives (sic) tenants away.

(g) compelling suppliers of goods and services to our firm to inflate the costs of their supplies.

(h) stationing of hoodlums on a daily basis around our office premises and the residential premises of our principal to harass; intimidate and taunt not just our principal but also his clients and guests.

(I) harassing; pressuring and threatening staff of our firm to resign their appointments as a result of which lawyers; IT personnels; secretaries; artisans, have all left.

(J) missing of case files of matters we are involved in the court.

(k) incessant and long adjournments of cases we are involved in court.

(l) coming inside the court room by DSS operatives; police and hoodlums in the transport unions, to harass; intimidate and taunt me.

(m) sending all manners of people to me to request for financial and other material assistance with view to bleed me financially.

👎 harassing; intimidating and taunting me and my staff in public places, like banks; bus stops; recreational facilities, media houses, etc, in the presence of law enforcement officers.

(o) send of lurid pictures of people who went bankrupt and committed suicide to me as a reminder of the fate to befall me.

Our Law Firm creates direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians from all walks of life from different parts of the country. Sadistically, DSS go about destroying businesses that generate jobs in a country with 35% of unemployment rate.

Those who have will die one day. Those who don’t have will also die one day. It’s therefore not life that matters but the courage we put into it.

The SSS a.k.a. DSS is an evil; irresponsible and lawless organization, that has no place in a democracy and a decent society.

The DSS will not succeed in hounding me to the cemetery like they did to Obadiah Malafia. I have God’s promise on that.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigerian.

Renaissent Africa.

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LAWLESSNESS AND QUEST FOR NATIONHOOD: WHITHER NIGERIA? – My EFCC experience and my task of investigating the invasion of the home of Hon. Justice Mary Odili JSC (Rtd.)


Having suffered military rulership for great number of years after independence, Nigeria under civilian regime is yet to imbibe the basic principles of democracy. Despite returning to democratic governance, rule of law and rights of citizens are still being breached at will and often with impunity.

If the military regimes before our nascent democracy were regarded as bad, our experience under our present democracy is worse than what was obtainable under the military regime.

The signs for such brazen disregard to the rule of law and rights of the citizens were quite early under this present regime of President Muhammadu Buhari. As lawyers we could recall the first NBA conference that took place in Abuja after President Buhari became president in 2015. He came in person with his Attorney General Mr Abubakar Malami SAN and when given the opportunity to speak did not hide his feelings in letting the whole world know the direction of his government whenever the rule of law clashes with an alleged national security.

According to him the rule of law and the rights of the citizens will be subsumed to the notorious national security whose description and meaning are known only to those at the helm of affairs of the State.

To the amazement of some of us in that Hall in Abuja, we were shocked to see some lawyers in the hall gave the President a standing ovation for such a dangerous statement that eventually became the fulcrum of his governance.

Rule of law took a terrible back seat under this present democracy.

It is very painful for me as a person because I was one of those who marketed the candidacy of President Buhari for solid 3 years under several platforms including a well known radio station in Lagos before he was chosen as a candidate of APC in 2014.

The present lack of observance of rule of law and the trampling of the citizens’ rights have taken us several years backwards for a nation that is in quest of nationhood.

We have advanced to nowhere, and even the little progress made by the judiciary during the military regime have been wiped away by the reign of pervasive lawlessness all over the place.

My experience with EFCC under Mr. Ibrahim Magu, then Chairman of the Agency is apposite here.

My patriotic zeal to see that an accused person is given a fair hearing having being accused of taking so much out of the system landed me into efcc cell for 23 days without any trial or conviction. What happened is like those fairy tales you watch in Nollywood. A certain lady who was part of President’s Jonathan’s regime was accused of taken 69 billion and later reduced to 1 billion from the Nigerian Social InvestmentTrust Fund NSITF while she was the Chairman of the Agency. She screamed that she was innocent but was abroad while claiming innocence. She was introduced to me as one seeking for a human rights lawyer for her defence. I convinced her to come back from abroad and she did and I presented her to efcc for inestigation and prosecution. Instead of investigation and prosecution, efcc was interested in intimidation, detention and harassment. Having detained her for 14 days without any charge, I proceeded to court to enforce her fundamental human rights against unlawful detention without a charge. They reluctantly agreed to grant her administrative bail on the grounds that since i was the person that brought her back I was in a better position to stand surety for her temporarily pending her formal arraignment.

I felt obliged to her, having been the one that convinced her to come back to face her trial in Nigeria. Secondly since she was to to be arraigned shortly, my suretyship will be discharged and she will get her reliable surety while I will defend her during the trial.

All these permutations did not materialise as Efcc and Magu had a different sinister agenda. Instead of arraigning her as agreed, the agency was interested in tormenting and engaging in psychological warfare. From December to May no charge until one day I learnt that efcc invaded her home, searched the whole house for a period of 12 hours, harassing and intimidating the woman to confess to a crime that was purely a civil issue and which was not the reason why she came back. The new matter which arose from Enugu was that she borrowed money from a fellow politician who felt that he has long legs with efcc and used them to intimidate the poor lady. When she got a reprieve from the invasion she bolted out of the country back to her base abroad citing the fact that the agency was no longer interested in investigation but to eliminate her. I have no reason to doubt such assertion as their search for 12 hours corrobated that fact.

Having driven her back abroad, Efcc suddenly woke up one day that they were ready to charge her. They demanded her from me as her surety. I made them realise that (1) they were the one that drove her back to abroad without letting me know the reason why they did that (2) the matter for which they came for her was a purely civil case for which they had no reason to meddle into and (3) they had over 5 months to have charged her but was foolishly delaying the charge purely out of malice and sheer intimidation to satisfy their overbloated ego and evil machinations.

Despite what I consider EFCC stupidity, I still went after the woman through INTERPOL and got the woman to be placed on Red Alert, meaning that she can be arrested anywhere she is seen in any of the countries that have mutual covenant on INTERPOL matters with Nigeria.

Having discharged my obligation as a surety to show cause why I cannot be held liable for her disappearance, efcc in their lawlessness and brigandage felt otherwise. I was hurled into their cell for clear 23 days despite a court order obtained on my behalf by my lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN that I should be charged for offence, if any, or be released from detention.

Notorious with disobedience to lawful court orders, Mr Ibrahim Magu refused to accept the order let alone obey it. Magu in his glory felt that he was above the law especially when he knew that he was kept as Acting Chairman for years despite non-confirmation by the Senate as required by the constitution and Efcc Act. He felt untouchable as he knew his master, the President does not believe in the rule of law and has no respect to the rights of the citizens.

To cut a long story short. After my release I went back to court and sued the Agency for violating my right as a patriotic citizen who did no wrong. Recently the judgement was delivered in which I was awarded the sum of 12 million for the wrongful detention. Up till now the said sum has not been paid but I am believing that the last has not been heard about that case. The day of reckoning is coming especially when a government that respects the rule of law is enthroned.

My second experience with this government which I am asked to share is my investigation of the invasion of the home of Hon Justice Mary Odili, the just Retired Justice of the Supreme Court.
Recall that NBA appointed me as the Sole Special Investigator of that invasion that got the entire nation infuriated because of the brazen manner of the said invasion by alleged security agents of the present government. On October 30, 2021, security operatives made up of soldiers and police officers had stormed the Abuja residence of the Supreme Court Justice over an allegation that illegal activities were going on there.

Hon Justice Mary Odili, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court and a wife of former Rivers State governor had her Abuja residence raided by a team of security agents headed by one Lawrence Ajodo, a fake police officer.
Amid the outrage triggered by the raid on Mrs Odili’s abode in the upscale Maitama area of Abuja , the Supreme Court condemned the incident which it said “depicted a gory picture of war”, *appearing like a mission to kill or maim the jurist”

NBA condemned the brazen raid and appointed me as the SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR to unravel the circumstances that led to the incident and which government officials authorised it.

Even though my report exonerated the government officials for lack of verifiable evidence linking them directly to the invasion, there is an aspect of my findings that were not emphasized and brought to the attention of the members of the public. In that report I said this and I quote ” Persons in the Federal Ministry of Justice have an inkling of the illegal activities of Mr Lawrence Ajodo(the fake policeman) and his collaborators and perhaps they have one way or the other consented or collaborated with him in some of his illegal activities”. I revealed further ” Some persons in the Federal Ministry of Justice may have benefited directly or indirectly from the illegal activities of this syndicate that hangs around the Ministry while using its name to create an official toga in their nefarious activities. The Federal Ministry of Justice officials cannot completely deny that they do not know some members of the syndicate”. However the absence of any shred of documentary or oral evidence linking the culprits exculpated the initial suspects like Abubakar Malami SAN and the Efcc officials. Even if Abubakar Malami SAN was exonerated, the officials of the Ministry were not exculpated. They were implicated by implied evidence generated from my findings.


My Recommendation therein were emphasized. Having interfaced with several persons and institutions in the cause of the elaborate investigation, I came up with some of the recommendations which if applied or enacted into law will go a long way in the administration of criminal justice system in Nigeria.

1. I suggested that substantive and procedural laws with elaborate processes and procedures for the issuance of search warrants, arrest warrants, detention orders, extension of detention orders amongst others be enacted into law for the States and the Federal Government.

2. The independence of the Judiciary should not be a matter for negotiation. It is either we have an independent judiciary or we choose not to have it. The advantages of an independent judiciary cannot be over emphasized. The independence of the Judiciary should not be only on paper but should be practicalised. The administrative, operational and financial autonomy of the judiciary should be total and exhaustive. The Federal and State Government should not be allowed to pay lip service to the independence of the Judiciary and the welfare of the members of the Bench.

3. Government Agencies or Security Agencies that tolerate or harbour criminal gangs, touts, or law-breakers in and around their offices should be made to answer to their illegal activities by being summoned by the various committees that superintend over them in the legislature.

4. Ensuring obedience to Court Orders and respect for the rule of law should remain the eternal pursuit of NBA and other professional bodies until these become principles by which every government in Nigeria should abide.

For me the last recommendation makes the day for me. Obedience to court orders and rule of law should be a directive principle of state policy.
Absence of law is anarchy and no meaningful development will ever take place in Nigeria if the government derives pleasure in encouraging lawlessness and wanton disregard to the rule of law and rights of the citizens.


NIGERIA quest for nationhood must be one based on respect to rule of law and enthronement of democratic principles in the polity. As we approach the 2023 General Election, Citizens are urged to participate in the civic responsibility of choosing their leaders who they know will pursue the primary purpose of government which is the protection of lives and property and the provision of welfare services to the entire citizenry. Observance of rule of law and respect to rights of citizens come with good governance. Good governance is a product of good and quality leadership and quality leadership can only be given by leaders carefully chosen by the people who know the antecedent of these leaders before voting them in.

It is a foundational issue. Except the foundation is right, we will continue to doubt the soundness of the building. If the foundation be destroyed what can the righteous do? I am afraid not much!

I want to thank the Chairman, the Executives and the entire members of the Badagry Branch for this great opportunity to share this brief thought on this topical issue in our nation today. I am grateful.

Dr. M. O. Ubani
Chairman, NBA-SPIDEL

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Leading human rights activist, MR. EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA SAN reviews the case of activist-lawyer Emperor Ogbonna and notes that his plight “highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State”

“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”
                                                                  – Section 35 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

After the right to life, the right to personal liberty is taken to be the most important of the all the rights granted under Chapter 4 of the Constitution. Without any shadow of doubt, the right to personal liberty is the one that is most abused, by those who are in power. Many suspects are languishing in various detention centres across the nation, without any hope for justice. It has been established that the majority of inmates in the various Correctional Centres in Nigeria are awaiting trial. It has become so easy for the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, to arrest and detain citizens at random, upon one alleged crime or the other. In some cases, they go beyond crime as the basis for arrest; cases involving civil financial obligations by the tenant are taken to the police by the landlord, and turned into a criminal complaint. Disputes over ownership of land also end up in the police station. In a particular case which I handled, the police officers were demanding for the survey plan of the land in order to determine the true owner thereof!

Gabriel Emperor Ogbonna is a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist who has been in custody of the police and the DSS for months, despite court orders directing his release. He is based in Aba, Abia State. He has been in detention since March 24, 2020, having been arrested in his office by operatives of the Department of State Security, DSS and armed policemen. He was initially taken to the Abia State Police Command headquarters, where he was confronted with a petition written against him that he published falsehood against the Governor of Abia State to the effect that the latter swore an oath at the Ancient Harashima. He was eventually arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court and remanded in custody. The activist was later charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia and was admitted to bail by the said court. Mr. Ogbonna perfected the conditions of his bail and was released from the Correctional Centre on April 28, 2020, but he was immediately arrested by the Abia State Director of DSS and thereafter transferred to Abuja. The story line is that the Abia State Government is allegedly behind his travails.

Mr Ogbonna was eventually tried at the Federal High Court, Umuahia in Abia State, wherein the said Court directed the production of Mr. Ogbonna but the order was flouted by the police and DSS, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CR/17/2020. Consequently, the Court, coram D.E. Osiagor, J., dismissed the charge against him and he was accordingly discharged, on June 26, 2020. Notwithstanding the said order, Mr. Ogbonna was not released. Mr. Ogbonna himself filed a civil suit, for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CS/40/2020, against the DSS. On June 29, 2020, the Court made the following orders, after taking arguments from counsel to the parties:

“1. That the 1st to 3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to immediately release the Applicant unconditionally or charge him only to a court of competent jurisdiction.
2. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby restrained by themselves or through their agents, servants and privies from further harassing, re-arresting and detaining the Applicant over the facts of this matter.
3. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to pay the sum of One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only (N1,500,000:00) as damages for the two months detention of the Applicant without trial.”

From June 29, 2020 when this order was made by the Court, it is well over a month and Emperor Ogbonna is still in the unlawful custody of the DSS. We cannot continue to carry on in this fashion, as if the country has no laws governing its affairs. Government officials, especially members of the Executive arm of government, cannot become so lawless as to totally disregard the orders of a competent court of law, as that will be promoting anarchy and chaos. Section 287 (3) of the Constitution is so very clear on this matter:

“287 (3). The decisions of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and of all other Courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other Courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and those other Courts, respectively.”

There should be no further assurance required by the DSS for the release of Emperor Ogbonna other than the orders of the Federal High Court, Umuahia, reproduced above. Whereas it is proper and desirable for law enforcement agencies to do their best to investigate, detect and prosecute crimes, for the good of society, once the court has intervened however, by way of granting an order for the release of a citizen, then such an order must be respected and must not be subverted through devious means or by subterfuge. There is no other way to describe the conduct of the DSS in keeping Emperor Ogbonna in its custody after the Court has ordered his unconditional release other than plain dictatorship and executive brigandage. When we get to the stage whereby citizens beg the government to obey court orders and to respect the rule of law, then you know that lawlessness has taken its ugly root.

Not long ago, the President signed Executive Order No.10, wherein he granted autonomy to the judiciary. It is thus improper to claim to grant autonomy to the judiciary with one hand and then take it away with another through wilful disobedience of Court orders. I call upon the President to call the Director of DSS to order, in order to avoid another scenario of what happened in the case of Omoyele Sowore. Emperor Ogbonna’s attention is needed by his pregnant wife, he also has a precarious medical history, having suffered gunshot wounds from an attempted assassination upon his life in the past. With the health challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, this is not the time to embark upon indiscriminate arrest and detention of citizens. Indeed, the government only recently directed that the Correctional Centres be decongested. The DSS must obey the order of court by releasing Emperor Ogbonna unconditionally and if there be any further allegations against him, he should be charged to court, in line with the requirements of the Constitution. Surely two wrongs cannot make anything right. There is no separate court established by law for the DSS and no trial can take place in the office of the Director of DSS. Thus, if the Court established by law says Emperor Ogbonna should be released, then he has to be released. This point cannot be negotiated at all.

All law enforcement agencies, including even the military, must willingly submit themselves to civilian authority, as we are not under military rule in Nigeria presently. The Courts were created under section 6 of the Constitution to adjudicate in disputes between persons and persons and between persons and the government. The criminal charge preferred against Emperor Ogbonna by the State has since been dismissed by the Court. In addition, the Court ordered that he should not be arrested or detained upon the same facts leading to his discharge. So, the question that the DSS must answer is whether whilst he has been in unlawful custody, Emperor Ogbonna has committed another offence to warrant his continued detention or even a fresh trial? The answer of course is a capital NO, which simply means that his current detention is illegal and a total disrespect to the authority and integrity of the court.

The plight of Emperor Ogbonna only highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State, as if a lawyer and an activist, who is well learned, conscious of his rights and privileges, is facing such persecution and hardship, then one can best imagine what the common man goes through, in all the police stations and other detention centres across Nigeria. This is why the struggle for the freedom of Emperor Ogbonna is one that must be undertaken by every lover of justice and human rights. The freedom and liberty of any individual should not be the subject of any oppressive negotiation with the State, in order to compel the citizen to abandon his avowed beliefs and principles.

Good enough that this is coming on the heels of the election of new national officers for the Nigerian Bar Association. It is a litmus test for the new NBA Exco to take the bull by the horn and mobilize lawyers and Nigerians to free Emperor Ogbonna. It will be a good baptism of fire, for the new NBA Exco to confront the DSS and insist on respect for the rule of law and obedience to the orders of the Courts in this and all other cases. It should not be possible ever again, for any lawyer or other citizen, to be kept in unlawful custody simply because he is considered to be in the opposition or has views which are intolerable to those who are in power. This has to stop.
The President cannot sit on the fence in this matter, as the DSS and indeed all other security agencies report directly to him. It is important that the President intervenes urgently to direct immediate compliance with the order of court for the release of Emperor Ogbonna. On a number of occasions the President has stated his preference for the rule of law, so this presents a good opportunity for him to put to practice, that which he preaches often. Let Ogbonna be released, immediately and unconditionally, as directed by the Court.

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