The State Security Service (SSS) has explained why it has not complied with the federal court order to release Omoyele Sowore from custody.
Mr Sowore met his bail conditions two days ago and a federal judge signed papers for his release from custody.
But two days later, the Sahara Reporters publisher remained locked up by the SSS. Amidst nationwide lampooning of the secret police for being lawless, it issued a statement Friday night, claiming Mr Sowore had not been released because no one had come to look for him.
“Since the receipt of the order, no person has turned up” to “take delivery” of Mr Sowore from custody,” spokesperson Peter Afunanya said in a statement. “This becomes imperative for reasons of accountability.”
Mr Afunanya said the court has been informed of its reasons, “and the steps being taken to ensure compliance with its order.”
The SSS, known for its history of repression under military dictatorships of the 1980s and 1990s, has maintained its long time notoriety as an institution with little regard for established order in Nigeria.
Despite its claim of being law abiding, the continued detention of Mr Sowore is only one of several Nigerians the agency is unlawfully holding in its custody, some in defiance of substantive court orders.
Mr Sowore’s lawyers and associates have been going to the SSS since his bail conditions were fully approved by a federal judge on Wednesday. When Mr Sowore’s lawyers tried to serve the agency the court order on Wednesday after, they were turned back, with the SSS even admitting that it did so because it was at 3:30 p.m. when it had closed.
Businesses close between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. weekdays in Nigeria, but security and law enforcement agencies are run 24 hours.
As of Friday afternoon, Mr Sowore’s lawyers and associates were still at the SSS, but they were not acknowledged and their attempt to get him released on the court order was rebuffed by the agency, whose officials are always heavily armed and aggressive.
It also appeared unprecedented that a federal agency will decline to release an adult that had met all bail conditions on the basis that no one had come to pick him up.