As the rate of clamping down on journalists by state governments continues to be on the increase, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, has joined the league by unleashing officials of the Imo state command of the Department of State Services (DSS), on a Journalist and Publisher of an online news, 247ureports.com, Mr. Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe. And in turn, the DSS in Owerri has been dragged to court by the publisher for his fundamental human rights.
According to suit number How/225/2017 filed on March 27, 2017 at the Imo State High Court, Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe prayed for the court to declare that the manner of invitation by agents of the DSS without no just cause is likely to breach applicant’s fundamental rights. The online publisher al;so prayed for an order of injunction restraining the DSS, their agents, servants, privies or those working for or under them from arresting, detaining, harassing or violating his fundamental rights.
Speaking with reporters, the publisher said, “At about 3pm on Monday, March 20, 2017, I received a call from this number 0909497 7344. The person introduced himself as Ugochukwu from SSS. He then said the Director of SSS at Owerri wants to See Me. I quickly responded, is it SSS or DSS? And who exactly do you want to speak with, sounding agitated and intimidating, he said, the SSS wants the owner of the phone number (08136697979) to come and see their Director. I then asked him to make a formal invitation. Of which, he responded that I should not make this difficult.
“I switched off the phone immediately and stopped answering his calls. I am not sure why the Owerri DSS would be inviting my person. I do not reside in Imo State. But, of recent, 247ureports.com had published reports critical of the Imo state government particularly against the excesses of the office of the first Lady of Imo State. We had also published critical reports against the APC government in Owerri over its mistreatment of Biafra activists.
“Efforts by fellow publishers and lawyers to reach the DSS in Owerri through the number published above yielded no response. They had tried to reach the DSS to inquire on the reasons for the invite. At the moment, I await the next action of the DSS as I have not been able to confirm that the call was indeed coming from the DSS and the DSS has refused to tell me why they are inviting me.
“I have been reliably informed that Okorocha administration has mandated the DSS to set me up with an unbailable offence. Days ago, Commissioner Njoku from Imo state called me to say that there was an envelope with money that had my number written on it. She also said that our report on the first Lady of Imo State was causing ripples within the administrative quarters. That I should remove it from the site.
“She said she was calling to find out if I misplaced the envelope. That the envelope was found at a burial. I told her that I don’t know what she was talking about. That I never attended any burial and she should please stop calling my number. Weeks later, the DSS called with an invitation.” Ezenekwe stated.
The case is scheduled for April 18, 2017 for hearing at High Court 6 in Owerri, Imo State.