It is said that old habits die hard. Is this why the Department of State Services (DSS) has failed to reinvent itself despite continuous public condemnation of its repulsive style?
The security agency’s negative consistency was further exposed in two cases reported in December 2021: a herbalist’s six-month ordeal in the agency’s detention facility, and the invasion of an organisation’s office by the agency’s operatives.
Interestingly, in the first case, the DSS showed interest in supernatural matters. The DSS detained Dada Ifasooto, a 29-year-old man who described himself as “a herbal medical practitioner and traditionalist based in Ekiti,” for six months based on a ridiculous allegation that bordered on the supernatural.
Ifasooto, they said, empowered Yoruba nation agitator Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho by “preparing charms” for him. DSS operatives arrested the native doctor at his home in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State, on July 16, 2021.
This was about two weeks after Igboho was declared wanted following his escape during a midnight DSS raid on his residence in Ibadan, Oyo State, on July 1, 2021. Two of his aides were killed during the operation, and 12 others were arrested.
How did Ifasooto become a person of interest to the DSS? He said in an interview after his release: “There is a young man called Tajudeen (Irinloye) whom I have known for some time. He is a commercial motorcycle rider in Ibadan and he had come to me for treatment for an ailment.
“I called him thereafter to follow up on the treatment plan that I gave to him but unknown to me, he is an aide of Chief Igboho and the DSS had arrested him and some other aides during the widely reported night raid of July 1, 2021.”
The DSS located Ifasooto, and took him to Abuja where he was detained under harsh conditions. ”I developed ulcer and high blood pressure in DSS custody after three months,” he said.
His experience in detention says a lot about the methods of the DSS. He recounted that a DSS official who questioned him introduced a supernatural dimension, saying “He mockingly told me to disappear then that I had been handcuffed and I told him I don’t know what he was talking about.”
The additional accusation also bordered on the supernatural. It is curious and ridiculous that the agency went to such lengths based on allegations that were clearly not actionable.
When he was eventually released on December 24, 2021, he said DSS officials told him “to be grateful to the lawyer and to their own investigation” which showed that he was innocent. They warned him to be cautious “so as not to return to their custody.”
Did all this really happen? DSS officials should hang their heads in shame. Ifasooto said: “It is painful to be unjustly detained for six months but I thank God that I didn’t spend Christmas in DSS custody. The DSS should carry out proper investigation before arresting people.” In addition, the DSS should make amends when they are wrong as in this pathetic case.
Some days later, the DSS was in the news again for negative reasons. There was familiar information about the agency’s notorious crude methods.
On the receiving end this time was the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a non- governmental organisation focused mainly on the National Assembly and its legislative role and activities.
CISLAC protested about the invasion of its office in Abuja by DSS operatives in a December 29, 2021 letter to the agency’s Director General, Yusuf Bichi, on “intimidation and profiling of civil society groups during Yuletide.”
According to the organisation’s executive director, Auwal Musa, DSS operatives, on December 27, 2021, “stormed” the office of CISLAC, the National Chapter of Transparency International, TI Nigeria, in Abuja.
“Laying siege,” he said, “the operatives demanded to see the Chief Security Officer of the building…our initial thought was that these were individuals masquerading as DSS agents…
“This thought was further reinforced by the fact that there was no prior notice, invitation or pending request from your office regarding any such visit.”
Any doubts about the identity of the invaders disappeared following a phone call from the organisation to a number provided by them. “An individual further confirmed that he was an agent of your agency providing details of his position,” the letter said.
CISLAC wants the agency’s boss to “investigate those who carried out this visit and for what purpose(s).” In addition, the organisation wants him to “call these operatives to order and charge them to be civil in their approach and not militarize our nascent democracy.”
The DSS has not responded to the issues raised in the letter. Are the allegations true? What explanations does the security agency have for the alleged incident and the conduct of its operatives?
The use of particular expressions in the CISLAC letter is of particular interest. The organisation described the said invasion as a “Gestapo approach.” It also called the action “unprofessional.” It further referred to the approach as “bad policing.”
It is unclear why the DSS regularly uses methods that are condemnable. The agency continues to act without a sense of the rule of law. It may not understand that lawlessness can never help its case.
Who knows what will happen next, to whom, or where? Which individual or organisation will experience the agency’s lawlessness next?
Moving from one crudity to another in a chain of unjustifiable assaults on democratic principles, the DSS acts like an oppressive bully in perpetual search of whom to oppress.
The “roles and functions” of the DSS include “Prevention, Detection and Investigation of threats of Espionage, Subversion, Sabotage, Terrorism, Separatist agitations, Inter-group conflicts, Economic crimes of National security dimension and threats to law and order.”
However, the agency is expected to do its work, particularly in a democracy, with a sense of the rule of law. Hopefully, it is not too far gone and beyond necessary reorientation.