The Media Adviser to a former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.), Mr. Kassim Afegbua, on Friday in Abuja raised the alarm over his safety, saying his life was in danger.
Afegbua, who spoke with journalists after he left the office of the Department of State Services in Abuja, where he had been invited for questioning, said the threats started since he issued a statement on Sunday on behalf of his principal, in which he advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
Afegbua, who had earlier visited the DSS office on Thursday but was asked to return on Friday, was accompanied to the headquarters of the organisation by his lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo.
He said, “My life is in danger right now. Consequently, I’m surrendering my life to the government. In the last one week, I have gone through a lot, including my children. The police declared me a wanted man for just no cause.
“Later, the DSS invited me on the same flimsy excuse. On Thursday, I honoured the invitation. I, with my lawyer, spent seven hours without seeing their boss and I was asked to come back on Friday (yesterday).
“Again, I spent almost two and half hours before my interrogators came and led me to a conference room where they confronted me, first with the statement I issued on Sunday on behalf of my boss (former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida) of over 14 years, in which he advised President Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
“I re-affirmed being the author on the instruction of my boss. They asked me to put it in writing, which I did. They brought the second statement refuting the original statement I signed and I told them that I knew nothing about it. They also asked me to put it in writing and I did just that.”
He also said he was asked to provide his bank account number, his passport number, residential address and other personal information. He said he was informed that what they were doing was normal, as two conflicting statements from a personality like a former Head of State must be investigated by them.
“Thereafter, they asked me and my lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, to go, and the atmosphere was very friendly and cordial,” he added.
Afegbua lamented that he was still at a loss on the sequence of events since the statement was released, noting that Babangida had not come out to disown him or the statement in question.
He said, “I also want to point out here, that since Sunday, I have been receiving series of abusive and offensive text messages on my phone, challenging me to come out of my hiding if I’m a man.
“They have been threatening to deal with me for daring to ask Buhari not to seek re-election next year. With all these, I have come to a conclusion that my life is in danger and based on this, I’m surrendering my life to the government.”
Afegbua, however, said he remained Babangida’s spokesperson until his boss himself decides otherwise. He said the government must allow constructive criticism for democracy to thrive in the country.
Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said the DSS lacks the power to summon Afegbua for issuing a statement on behalf of Babangida.
He said on Friday that Afegbua had not committed any offence to warrant the DSS to invite him; hence, the President should restrain the DSS boss, Mr. Lawal Daura, from subjecting Afegbua to any form of interrogation as it would violate his fundamental rights to personal liberty and fair hearing guaranteed by the constitution.
He said, “The police had claimed that Mr. Afegbua had defamed General Babangida. If the retired General was defamed in the publication, he has the liberty to seek redress in a high court. But the Department of State Services has no power to convert the alleged civil wrong of defamation to a criminal offence to warrant the harassment of Mr. Afegbua.
“Since the alleged denial of the press statement by General Babangida has not caused any threat to the internal security of the country, the invitation by the DSS constitutes a gross abuse of powers.
“In the case of the Director of State Security Service & Anor. v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 314, the Supreme Court held that the power of the State Security Service (now Department of State Services) is strictly limited to the prevention and detection of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria as stipulated by section 2 of the National Security Agencies Act.”