The Guardian (Nigeria)
That DSS attack on citizen Sunday Igboho
WHICHEVER way one looks at it, the raid carried out by the Department of State Services ( DSS) on the residence of Sunday Igboho in Ibadan is callous, blood- thirsty and not synonymous with a government that lays a claim to civil and democratic ideals. Having regard to the raid’s antecedents, there can be no justification for it, notwithstanding the face- saving explanation it offered at the end of the operation to the effect that its team was attacked by Igboho’s men; or that it acted on a tip- off that Igboho had stockpiled arms in his house. That explanation was, at best, an afterthought, significant only for its unconvincing attempt to find a question for a ready- made answer.
It is very strange that the DSS operatives decided to raid a house that had been attacked only some months earlier by unknown persons, whom the police or security agencies had made no effort to uncover. Why would the DSS, with all its security paraphernalia, expect occupants of the same house to provide a red carpet reception for yet another attack, in the middle of the night, merely because the attackers pronounced themselves to be official security personnel?
Moreover, given that the DSS had not, prior to the invasion, invited Igboho or placed him as a fugitive, can the department not explore a safer, effective and saner means to arrest Igboho and any other person connected with him?
For more than three and a half hours in the early hours of Thursday, July 1, 2021, between 1.30 a. m. and 5 a. m., an unknown number of DSS operatives, fully armed and in military combat gear, stormed the Soka, Ibadan residence of Sunday Igboho, shooting sporadically anything in sight, including domestic cats. After hours of the onslaught, two persons, including a cleric said to be on a praying mat, died from gunshots. The entire house was badly damaged, having been turned inside out by the operatives supposedly in search of Igboho. Exotic cars parked in the compound were riddled with bullets in a manner suggesting aggravated malice. Many people sustained injuries and 13 members of the household were arrested and later paraded.
The Public Relations Officer of DSS, Peter Afunnaya, who confirmed the agency’s operation, later declared Igboho wanted, explaining that the two Igboho men killed were gunned down in the course of exchange and that the others were subdued and subsequently arrested. Only one operative sustained gunshot injury on his right hand, he said, listing items found and recovered in the house to include “seven AK- 47 Assault Rifles, three pump action guns, 30 fully charged AK- 47 magazines, 5,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, five cutlasses, one jack knife, one pen knife, two pistol holders, one binoculars, a wallet containing $ 5 and $ 1 denomination; local and international driver’s licence in his name, ATM cards, a German residence permit bearing his name, 50 cartridges, 18 walkie talkies, three voodoo charm jackets/ traditional body armour, two laptops, his international passport and those of many others.”
Through his lawyers and other aides, Igboho has refuted these accusations, saying that the security operatives who invaded his house did so without a search warrant, whereas he was not invited for questioning or investigation prior to the raid. The operatives “destroyed my properties, killed persons and stole valuables and money,” he said, adding that they planted or harvested the ammunitions paraded in his house to frame him, as “I protect myself with traditional powers, not with guns.” Igboho insisted that his offence was no more than his intervention and resistance to the “incessant killings, raping and kidnapping of my people in the Southwest Nigeria;” and that he would ordinarily not have intervened “if government had lived up to its responsibility of securing the Southwest and Nigeria at large from the criminal activities of the president’s ethnic men.”
Truthfully, Igboho has been known for his agitation for separatism of the Yoruba race, following incessant and unprovoked aggression on the people of the South West by killer Fulani herdsmen seeking territorial expansion; in the course of which they kill local farmers, kidnap the natives, rape women and abduct children for ransom. On an occasion, Igboho had accompanied members of local communities to confront and dislodge killer herdsmen said to be terrorising the people. All along, there was not as much as a whimper from the Federal Government in charge of security of Nigerians. While the complaints of the victims fell on deaf ears, law enforcement agencies were quick to pounce on any local security personnel who make the meekest effort at challenging the aggressors.
Under national and international laws and conventions, Ighoho’s activities which he carried out peacefully and transparently, does not in any way imply an attempt at insurrection and ought not to be so interpreted.
The level of force expended by the DSS on Igboho’s house is clearly out of proportion with even the allegation of being in illegal possession of guns. Before then, all Igboho’s outing were not associated with shooting of people; and his campaign for self determination of Yoruba had been carried out peacefully in several places in the southwest, without a single bloodshed or any violence. This certainly does not support the DSS’ ferocity unleashed on the house and inhabitants. In the circumstances, Igboho’s claim that the DSS came to kill him may not be unfounded.
The operatives’ destruction of his surveillance cameras may also be interpreted as an effort to eradicate all telltale signs of official disregard for rules of engagement in such a confrontation; and the fact that only the agency is seen to be talking testifies to the notion that it does not brook any opposition to its operations.
Overall, the DSS invasion does the Federal Government no good as an authority with a human face and fairness principle. What Igboho is saying through his aides now would have been to no avail had he been killed in the attack. The DSS and other law enforcement authorities need be informed that many Nigerians who are being terrorised by killer herdsmen and bandits are totally unimpressed with their lackadaisical attitude, compared to the zeal with which they come after Nigerians seeking to protect themselves or subsequently calling for a review of the country’s structure.
It is important for the security agencies to correct the imbalance in their line of operation and observe due process in carrying out their operations. The DSS’ practice of taking ignoble action first and thereafter seeking to justify it is patently reprehensible. Igboho deserves commendation and complementarity in his efforts to rid the country of criminal and destabilising elements who hide in the forest and wage war against defenceless and law- abiding citizens. He should not be hounded, as the DSS is doing.