A group of constitutional and human rights lawyers has taken legal action by filing a contempt charge and initiating committal proceedings against Yusuf Bichi, the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The lawyers claim that Bichi violated multiple court judgments and orders directing the release of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, from DSS custody.
Led by Maxwell Opara and Ahmed Tijani, the lawyers are requesting that the court imprison Bichi until he purges himself of contempt. In their motion, they seek the issuance of Form 48 and Form 49, which are the forms used to initiate proceedings to commit a contemnor to prison. The lawyers argue that based on the judgments and orders of Justice M. A. Hassan, Justice Hamza Muazu, and Justice Bello Kawu, the DSS Director General should have released Emefiele from detention.
According to the affidavit supporting the application, the consortium asserts that Justice M. A. Hassan specifically prohibited the respondents, particularly the DSS, from arresting, detaining, or interrogating Emefiele for offenses related to terrorism financing, money laundering, round-tripping, and other financial crimes of national security concern.
The consortium maintains that despite the clear and explicit orders of Justice Hassan, the DSS proceeded to arrest and detain Emefiele for over a month, while allegedly searching for evidence that does not exist.
After submitting their documents at the court registry, Opara addressed journalists and stated that the group would pursue the matter to its conclusion, ensuring that Bichi is imprisoned as a deterrent to other heads of security agencies and high-ranking government officials who engage in contempt of court and misuse their offices for personal vendettas.
Opara further called on President Bola Tinubu to immediately remove Bichi from his position as the DSS Director General, alleging that Bichi had misled the president by falsely claiming that Emefiele had committed serious crimes against the state, only to now charge him with the possession of a legally registered pump-action rifle.
The lawyer emphasized that since there was no valid court order and the DSS had been unable to find any evidence against Emefiele, his release was warranted. Opara concluded that the continued detention of Emefiele by the DSS was unlawful, violated his rights, and therefore, the consortium would ensure that Bichi is ultimately committed to prison.