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State Security Service (SSS)

Fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, Babangida in June 1986 issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the NSO and restructuring Nigeria's security services into three separate organizations under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The new State Security Service (SSS) was responsible for intelligence within Nigeria. Babangida scrapped Decree Number 4 and reduced the punishment for drug traffickers from public execution to jail terms and he annulled the proscription of "radical" groups such as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).

Although the notorious NSO was dissolved, the new security establishment in 1990 continued to act arbitrarily and with impunity. The government proscribed radical interest groups like NANS and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the central body of all university professors and lecturers. Several innocent citizens were subjected to physical assault without government reparations. Human rights remained substantially circumscribed. Decree Number 2 remained in place, and numerous citizens had been incarcerated under it, although the allowable period of detention without charge was reduced from six months to six weeks in January 1990. With the aid of this and other decrees that restricted freedom, usually promulgated retrospectively, such radical and outspoken critics of the government as Gani Fawehinmi, Tai Solarin, and Balarabe Musa were regularly detained. Despite having annulled Decree Number 4, the government had several brushes with media organizations. In 1988 Newswatch was proscribed for six months, and journalists, academics, and civil rights activists continued to be harassed by state security agents.

Government security forces frequently harass, arrested, and detain editors and reporters from journals critical of the regime. On November 4, 1997 Aoetokunbo Fakeye, defense correspondent for The News, was arrested. On November 8, Jenkins Alumona, editor of The News, was arrested by SSS agents at a Lagos television station. On November 9, Onome Osifo-Whiskey, managing editor of Tell magazine, was arrested by SSS agents in Lagos while driving to church with his children. On October 29, Osifo-Whiskey had warned that the magazine had received a written death threat, which listed the names of 27 staff members. On November 16, SSS agents arrested Babafemi Ojudu, editor of the News/Tempo. Rafiu Salau, an administration editor for the News/Tempo, was also arrested in mid-November. Former chairman of the editorial board of the daily The Guardian and a visiting professor of journalism at a US university, Olatunji Dare, was detained overnight and his passport seized upon his arrival from the United States on 02 June 1997. He was told to report to the SSS to retrieve his passport. After being interrogated on 17 June by SSS officials about his activities abroad, his passport was returned.

The Government represses the political activities of opposition groups. Public meetings are arbitrarily canceled or prevented, including cultural events, academic conferences, and human rights meetings. On 25 September 1997, police and SSS agents broke up a Human Rights Africa (HRA) seminar for students in Jos, arrested HARA director Tunji Abayomi and 4 others, and briefly detained some 70 students. Abayomi and the others were held for 10 days and then released on bail. A 01 May 1998 workshop on conflict management in Port Harcourt was canceled when the SSS warned local coordinators that such a meeting could not be held on Workers Day, a local holiday. Similar workshops elsewhere proceeded unimpeded despite the holiday.

Sources and Resources

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Updated Sunday, May 24, 1998 3:41:27 PM