SSS Apologizes & Returns Okey Ndibe`s Passport

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This is to inform Nigerians and the international community that following the appearance of Prof Okey Ndibe at the State Security Service (SSS) office in Lagos as directed today, his Nigerian and international passports have been released to him and  the agency has given an undertaking that no further action is to be taken against him.       Professor Ndibe arrived at the SSS offices at about 9:55 A.M. Nigerian time with his lawyer, Mr 'Sanjo Fagbemi. They were ushered into a waiting area and were there until 11:20 A.M. when they were taken to an office where two men were waiting. Prof Ndibe introduced himself and informed them he was there with his lawyer who also introduced himself. One of the men, who introduced himself as Mr Bifani then explained that the lawyer's presence would not be necessary as they do not intend to interrogate Professor Ndibe nor detain him for long. He asked the lawyer to excuse them and the lawyer left to wait outside with some members of Respect Nigerians Coalition and other well-wishers who had come to the SSS offices in solidarity with Prof Ndibe.      

  Once the lawyer left, Mr Bifani began by apologising to Professor Ndibe for the distress they've caused him saying he has to accept it as 'one of those things in life'. He explained that they were going to give him his passport and let him go. Prof Ndibe wondered how that comment can help in explaining what has happened. He said people outside would want to know why he was arrested in the first place, whether for a substantive offence or for mere suspicion, why his passports were taken and why he was asked to report to that office today. He explained that people will ask him and he requires answers to give them. Mr Bifani explained that he has committed no offence. He said he has been reading the reports as well and that this is all based on an 'old matter' which he's happy to say has been resolved. He said Professor Ndibe's passports would be given back to him and that he can assure him that he would not be stopped at the airport anymore or picked up. He went on to say that this whole problem was based on the action of a previous government that have put Professor Ndibe's name on a list of persons they should be questioning, but that the present government is not interested in pursuing this.      

  Professor Ndibe enquired about what this 'old matter' was and how it was resolved that he is no longer to be questioned about this and how such a purported resolution is evidently contradicted by the fact of his arrest and the seizure of his passports. He said while he is no longer interested in pursuing those aspect concerning him personally, he is more interested in the revelation that there is a list of people somewhere, which included his own name and which the SSS is still apparently working with. He asked if this list included activists, writers, human rights campaigners and people who generally have a different view from the government, but who have been expressing their opinion peacefully and freely in the public space. He said he wants to know whether after his ordeal, others like him, whether based in Nigeria or coming from abroad, would not be given the same or worse treatment based on a list in the agency's possession.      

  Mr Bifani said, to be honest, he wasn't competent to speak about the list, which persons' names are in it, who is not in it or who is likely to be picked up. But that all he can do now was to hand over Prof Ndibe's passports to him. He brought out the passports and a form and asked Professor Ndibe to sign. The form basically was an acknowledgement that he has received his passports back. Prof Ndibe read and signed and the other fellow in the room who had been there all along saying nothing and who introduced himself as Mr Charles then signed as a witness. Prof Ndibe thanked them, took his passports and left to meet up with his lawyer and members of Respect Nigerians Coalition and well-wishers who had come to the office in solidarity with him. He gave a brief interview to Mr Ahaoma Kanu, a journalist and member of Respect Nigerians Coalition and went back home. By the time he was speaking to us, he was already home with friends and visitors who were visiting in solidarity.      

Prof Ndibe said he was satisfied with the outcome on a personal level because despite the little hiccup, he still has time to get on with his programme in Nigeria and return to the US as originally scheduled. But he said he was seriously worried about the fact that he could not get an answer to the query about whether there are plans for the State Security Service to arrest or detain other opposition voices based on this list they admitted is in their possession. He urges the government of Goodluck Jonathan to make a statement in this regard and give a firm undertaking that the era of repression of political opponents is gone. He thanks Nigerians, the national and international civil society groups and the international community that kept the pressure on the government over the weekend. He said their love, care and concern has made his resolve to continue on the path of truth firmer, as he believes the Nigeria of our dream shall ultimately be attained with each of us doing our bit. He said he appreciates the courtesies showed him by the SSS officers who dealt with him and further appreciates that they have a job to do in defence and protection of national security. He said he hopes such courtesies that were extended to him are standard and across the board and not just based on status. Signed: Kennedy Emetulu   Tosin Awotesu   Emeka Enechi   (For and on behalf of Respect Nigerians Coalition)