The former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who yesterday turned himself in for interrogation by the Directorate of State Security (DSS), had not been released at the time of going to press.
THISDAY learnt from security sources that the DSS was ready to grant el-Rufai administrative bail, but none of persons who accompanied him earlier in the day was available to bail him.
It was further learnt that his problem was compounded by his inability to communicate with his party or family members because he had been dispossed of his phone.
While in custody, el-Rufai was said to have rejected the food offered by the DSS on the grounds that he has an ulcer and only eats food prepared from home.
The former minister, who was invited for questioning by the security agency over statements he made regarding possible violence during the 2015 general election, had evaded arrest last Friday, insisting that the DSS must produce an arrest warrant.
But before he turned himself in, el-Rufai told journalists yesterday morning at a location in Maitama, where he had gone in the company of other APC stalwarts, that he was going to honour the invitation.
After briefing the press, the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, who was present, drove el-Rufai to the DSS office in Asokoro in a BMW Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), with registration number AH 358LGT at 9.25 am.
Others who accompanied el-Rufai to the DSS office were his wife; personal lawyer, Mr. A.U. Mustapha; Senator Chris Ngige; the National Secretary of APC, Alhaji Tijani Tumnsa; National Publicity Secretary of the Conference for Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Mr. Osita Okechukwu; and the Treasurer of APC, Hajiya Sadiat.
However, a mild drama ensued on el-Rufai’s arrival at the barricade to the DSS building on Aso Drive junction where the office is located.
At this point, the former minister and his entourage were forced to alight from their vehicles, tagged and made to walk the about 400 metres to the main gate of DSS.
At the gate, which also serves as the reception, el-Rufai was shown the arrest warrant from the court and only he and his lawyer, Mustapha, were allowed into the main building where he was interrogated.
Amaechi who later left the premises by 11.08 am and others were barred from following him into the building. At the time of filing this report, most members of el-Rufai’s entourage were still waiting in the reception at the gate.
Also at the time of filing this report, the former minister was still with the operatives of the DSS.
All efforts to get the DSS’s comments on el-Rufai’s interrogation proved abortive as the spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, did not pick her calls.
Shortly before he left the DSS premises, Amaechi said he had been directed by APC to accompany Rufai to the DSS, adding “But I am not involved.”
But before arriving the DSS headquarters, el-Rufai spoke to journalists at his Maitama residence in Abuja, saying there was a link between his ordeal and the court action he had instituted against the DSS over his detention in Awka during the Anambra governorship election last November.
“I think because I sued the SSS for detaining me unlawfully in Awka during the gubernatorial election, I think that is the main reason. Of course I think they have found other reasons because there is nothing I said that history has not shown,” he said.
El-Rufai insisted that what he said was not offensive, adding:
“I said the election should be free and fair. If they are not free and fair there is likely going to be violence. These were certain at least four times in history – in 1964, 1983, 1993 and 2011. So what is strange about that?
“Any person that doesn’t know does not know this is just ignoring history. This is all about 2015. This is just to intimidate and silence the opposition against crying out that the elections are likely to be rigged by the PDP.
“But I will continue to speak out and they can continue to arrest me until we get free and fair elections in Nigeria.
“I believe that the SSS has no power to compel me to go to their office because of the statement which I have the right under the constitution to make.
“Look, embarrassment is part of life. It does not matter to me as embarrassment is part of life. All I want to say is that whoever violates the law or does anything against the constitution should face the consequence. We will pursue our rights in court and in the court of public opinion.”
The former FCT minister said he did not honour the invitation of DSS earlier as there was no warrant for his arrest, adding that the service had no power to compel him to come to their office because of the statement.
“The SSS has provided the warrant of arrest and showed it to my lawyer on Friday and I said to my lawyer that we will come here this morning (Monday),” he said.
On his part, Amaechi said the police acted very professionally at last weekend’s rally by his supporters in Rivers State, apparently because the officers that came were acting on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Abubakar.
“We didn’t say things are getting to normal. We said for the first time we should thank the Inspector General of Police for allowing us the freedom to hold the rallies without abuse. We thank him for that and not the Commissioner of Police (Mbu Joseph Mbu) because I heard there was an AIG and DIG who were sent, which meant it was abnormal.
“It means that they have acknowledged that the Commissioner of Police is not good. For them to send the AIG and DIG, the implication is that things are abnormal. Unfortunately, I am not born to be intimidated,” he said.
On his part, the National Secretary of the APC warned that the party would not take it kindly if el-Rufai was detained without due process.
“We will insist on due process being followed and we expect that the DSS should release el-Rufai because there is nothing that he said that was offensive to the law. Impunity must not be allowed to continue,” he said.
He observed that what el-Rufai had said was not inciting, adding, “Rather it was a mere predictive statement aimed at forewarning the authorities to guard against the shoddy handling of the 2015 elections,” he added.
Also, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), in a statement, said it had carefully read the statement credited to el-Rufai in which he said there would be violence if the 2015 general election is not credible, free and fair, noting, “We are at a loss how this nimble conditional statement constitutes a security threat and is rated weighty enough to attract the attention of the Directorate of State Service (DSS) to arrest him.”
Okechukwu, who issued the statement, expressed the hope that the country was not sliding back to the dark days of dictatorship, when “watch lists drifted into hit lists”.
“In our candid view it smacks of selective justice and gives credence to the watch list, which the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, harped on in his letter to President Goodluck Jonathan,” he said.