The Department of State Services, DSS, lacks the power to force the Abuja Bureau Chief of The Independent, Mr. Tony Ezimakor, to disclose the source of his information, activist-lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, has said.
Ezimakor was released from detention last night.
Falana, in a statement issued in Lagos yesterday titled, “Tony Ezimakor cannot be forced to disclose his source of information”, advised the DSS to release him unconditionally as he has not committed any offence known to law.
The senior lawyer, who said Ezimakor’s detention was illegal and unconstitutional, drew the attention of the DSS to Section 35(2) of the Constitution, which provides that “any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice”.
“Since Mr. Ezimakor is constitutionally entitled to “remain silent”, the Department of State Services lacks the power to subject him to disclose the source of his information.
“Therefore, by arresting and detaining Mr. Ezimakor for the purpose of compelling him to disclose the source of a story written by him and published by The Independent newspaper, the DSS has acted malafide, illegally and unconstitutionally.
“As Mr. Ezimakor has not committed any offence known to law, the DSS should release him unconditionally and publicly apologise to him in line with the requirement of Section 35(6) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigerian as amended.”
He noted that the Abuja Bureau Chief of The Independent was arrested last week by the DSS for publishing a story on the alleged payment of $2 million to the Boko Haram terrorists for the release of some of the abducted Chibok girls.
He noted that the DSS, which felt embarrassed by the publication, held Ezimakor till last night. He was asked to disclose his source of information as a condition for his release.
“The harassment of Mr Ezimakor is a sad reminder of the case of Messrs Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, who were tried, convicted and jailed by the Buhari/Idiagbon junta in 1984 over their refusal to disclose their source of information pertaining to a story published in The Guardian .
“Regrettably, the DSS is yet to appreciate that a journalist cannot be forced to disclose his source of information under the current democratic dispensation,” Falana stated.