G. O. Agbadua, a counsel to Department of State Services (DSS), says national security is the reason Jones Abiri, a Bayelsa-based journalist, was detained for two years without trial.
Abiri, publisher of Weekly Source Newspaper, was arrested by Department of State Services (DSS) in 2016 and accused of being the the leader of the joint revolutionary council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, a separatist group.
He was arraigned for the first time after two years in July following public outcry. Abiri was granted bail in August.
Thereafter, the journalist asked the Abuja federal high court to compel the federal government to pay him N200 million as compensation for spending two years in detention.
He said he was tortured by the DSS while in detention.
At the court on Monday, Agbadua explained that when a capital crime has been committed as in the alleged case of Abiri, a person can be held in detention without a trial.
“Section 30(3) of ACJA where a suspect is taken into custody and it appears to the police officer in charge of the station that the offence is of a capital nature, the arrested suspect shall be detained in custody, and the police officer may refer the matter to the attorney-general of the federation for legal advice and cause the suspect to be taken before a court having jurisdiction with respect to the offence within a reasonable time,” the counsel said.
“It is of individual right to national security and rule of law, the state itself was a result of individuals submitting their powers, their rights to the state for protection.
“Reading those provisions, we are of the view that since it’s individual right, it cannot supersede that of the national security and that bail in capital offence is not as of right.”
But Samuel Ogala, counsel to Abiri, disagreed with Agbadua.
Ogala argued that his client’s detention was illegal and there is no court order to that effect.
“What is rule of law and national security? It is the duty and responsibility of the court to say yes, this case is a capital offence or whether an applicant is entitled to bail or not,” he said.
“It is not the responsibility of the state security service to sit in their office, arrest, detain and punish a person.
“The issue of rule of law and national security is very clear, what I want the court to understand is that, the applicant’s detention is criminal intimidation and it is punishable.”
After listening to counsels, Nnamdi Dimgba, the judge, adjourned the matter till September 13.
The issue of national security and the rule of law has generated controversy in the last one week.
President Muhammadu Buhari had said his administration would not sacrifice national security for the rule of law.