The State Security Service, SSS, has finally secured a warrant of arrest for the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Nasir El-Rufai, and has now launched a manhunt for him, the spokesperson for the agency has said.
This is even as armed operatives of the Service again stormed a second house in Abuja believed to belong to the former minister in their desperate bid to arrest him.
They had earlier in the afternoon invaded his first house in the Maitama District of the nation's capital, but could not find him as he had reportedly gone to pick his children from school. They were said to have tried to force their way in to arrest the former minister.
In the latest siege on another property, also in the Maitama District, the operatives were said to have beaten up some private guards for refusing them entry.
The spokesperson of the SSS, Marylyn Ogar, confirmed that the operatives visited Mr. El-Rufai's second house to arrest him, but denied that anyone was beaten.
"I hate cheap blackmail," Ms. Ogar told PREMIUM TIMES on telephone. "We went to the first place, nobody was beaten up. How will we go to the second place and beat people up?"
She explained that the SSS got an arrest warrant demanded by Mr. El-Rufai, but could not find him to personally serve him the document.
"We extended a friendly invitation to him," the SSS spokesperson said. "He was invited honourably to come and make some explanations about the comments attributed to him.
"He said he wanted an arrest warrant. We have now obtained that from a competent court and we are wondering why he is running.
"We want to serve it on him. Or is there any Nigerian that is above the law?
"The president has said his ambition is not worth any Nigerian's blood. So why will anyone else be making provocative statements?"
The manhunt for the former minister followed his refusal to honour an invitation from the SSS on Thursday.
He cited his pending suit against the Service over his detention in a hotel in Awka during the Anambra State Governorship last November 16 as the reason for refusing to honour the invitation.
Mr. El-Rufai also insisted on seeing a warrant of arrest before he could go to the SSS office.
The invitation of the APC chief was in connection with his remarks at a conference in Abuja on Wednesday that there might be violence if the 2015 general elections were not credible.
Meanwhile, Mr. El-Rufai, in statement by his media advisor, Muyiwa Adekeye, on Friday, confirmed that armed SSS officials stormed his home in Abuja following his rejection of the attempt by the organization to compel him to report at their office without a valid warrant.
The statement said the former minister had on Thursday firmly told the Director General of SSS that he would be exercising his right not to go to the SSS offices except a warrant mandates him and offered to meet the SSS officials in his home or office.
"The armed invasion of his house is a clear indication that the SSS imagines itself as an agency immune from respecting fundamental rights, behaviour akin to a gathering of toughs before whom every citizen must quake," the statement said.
"The SSS agents did not produce any warrant to back their invasion of his premises.
"The assault on El-Rufai's house continues a sorry tradition of serial violation of his rights by the SSS which has arrested him at airports and hotels.
"The most recent was the action of the SSS in violating his right to freedom of movement in Awka during the Anambra elections. Without any just cause or formal charge, the Directorate of State Security Services (SSS) had unlawfully detained El Rufai, the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the premises of Finotel Hotel, Akwa, Anambra State, from the 15th day of November, 2013 to the 16th day of November, 2013."
The statement said during the period, Mr. El-Rufai was not only restricted to the hotel, he was denied access to his congregational prayer as a devout Muslim, and kept incommunicado without access to anyone and or the press.
It stated that in order to remedy the flagrant violation of his fundamental rights as enshrined in sections 35, 39, 40 and 41 of the Constitution, the former minister sued the SSS, seeking eight reliefs, including an injunction to restrain the SSS from further infringing on his fundamental rights.
The statement also said that he prayed the court for a declaration that the SSS had no powers under the 1999 constitution (as amended) or under any Nigerian law to either impose a general restriction on movement or restrict his constitutional right of freedom of movement as enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 constitution on account of the Anambra State Gubernatorial election that took place on the 16th day of November, 2013 or any other election.
It stated that proceedings in the case against the SSS began on January 16 at the Federal High Court, Awka, Anambra State and that one C.C. Nwaokorie, who is the counsel for the respondents, informed the court that they had only received the processes the previous day.
"The records of the Court indicated that that they had been served in good time. The court adjourned to 19 February 2014 for hearing of the matter," the statement said.
"The SSS is advised to diligently attend to this pending matter. Mallam El-Rufai will not be silenced. He will continue to do his patriotic duty of challenging INEC and the security agencies to guarantee the climate for free and fair elections in Nigeria by desisting from partisanship and the embrace of impunity."
Meanwhile, the APC has expressed outrage over the harassment of its official.
In a statement on Friday, the party described the invasion of Mr. El-Rufai's home without any warrant of arrest as "shameful overkill."
The party, in the statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said it was shocked that the DSS was seeking to arrest Mr. El-Rufai for merely exercising his constitutional right of free speech.
It said there was nothing inciting or extraordinary in the statement made by its official that there might be violence if the 2015 general elections were not free and fair.
"What our Deputy National Secretary said is a statement of fact and should not warrant any harassment, unless of course the DSS is saying that the 2015 general elections will not be free and fair," the APC said.
"The statement is a matter of cause and effect and amounts to a patriotic call for the 2015 general elections to be free, fair and credible. If this statement now rankles the DSS, then the department has a lot of explanation to do to convince Nigerians that it was not engaging in a witch-hunt, considering the case instituted by Malam El-Rufai against it (DSS) over his illegal detention in a hotel in Akwa during the Anambra governorship poll last November."
The party said it wondered why the DSS had suddenly found its agility, after feigning deafness when people like Edwin Clark, Asari Dokubo and Chukwuemeka Ezeife issued a direct threat to Nigeria's continued existence over President Goodluck Jonathan's second term ambition.
"The DSS is free to join the police in becoming a partisan and compromised national institution, but it should weigh the consequences of such action on its long-term credibility," the APC said
Also, in a statement Friday, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, said he wondered what Mr. El-Rufai's crime was that warranted the harassment he is currently suffering.
He said the APC chieftain stated the obvious when he said there would be violence if the 2015 presidential elections were rigged.
"It has been brought to my attention that heavily armed operatives of the SSS have stormed the home of my friend and brother Mallam Nasir El Rufai," Mr. Fani-Kayode said.
"What was his crime? He stated the obvious and told the truth- namely that if the Presidential elections are rigged in 2015 by the ruling PDP the people would rise up and there would be terrible violence and colossal casualties.
"As far as I am concerned he is simply stating the obvious. It is only those that are planning to rig that have a problem with this bitter truth.
"Nasir was simply counseling them about the natural consequences of their intended criminal actions yet the government appears to be hell bent on charting the course of oppression, intimidation and the suppression of human rights, including the right to the freedom of speech."
The former Aviation Minister said Mr. El-Rufai had sent a strong warning and that nothing would change even if he was locked up by the SSS.
He said, "El-Rufai has sent a strong warning and, whether they like it or not, locking him up will change nothing.
"Whilst no-one wants violence and even though some of us abhor it let it be clearly understood that if anyone is hurt, maimed or loses their life as a consequence of PDP-rigging in 2015 the blame and responsibility will lie squarely on the shoulders of President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP who are hell-bent on staying in power at all costs.
"It is only a weak and nervous government that has lost its moral compass, that has no respect for human rights and that is devoid of any conscience that behaves in this way."