Family members of one of the Bureau De Change operators arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) for allegedly financing terrorism have lamented their inability to contact their relative since he was picked up on March 11.
In March, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the Nigerian government had arrested some Bureau De Change operators allegedly facilitating the transfer of money to Boko Haram terrorists.
He had said some Nigerians transferring money to the sect from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were working with the BDC operators.
Since the arrest, the family members said they had not been allowed to see nor hear from their relative who remained with the security agents since then.
One of the family members told SaharaReporters that they were not interested in interfering with the investigations of the officers but rather seek to know whether their relative was alive or dead.
According to them, since the court hearing started on August 18, none of the accused persons had been presented in court.
One of them identified as Muhammad Angubdo said, “My elder brother is part of those arrested in Maiduguri in March and I know some of those arrested alongside him too. Most of the people arrested in Maiduguri, we are from one tribe, the Shu’a Arab tribe.
“They arrested 9 people in Maiduguri, Borno State. When the incident first happened, we took it as some sort of harassment because we are in the minority; we never knew they would later connect them to Boko Haram.
”When I learnt he was invited by the Department of State Services, I thought it had to do with issues relating to the market because he is the vice-chairman of their association. So, I thought they were settling issues at the security service office. But past prayer time, he had not returned and we became very worried, I dialled his number; no response. I asked other people to call too; there was no response too.”
He added, “We tried to reach the General Officer Commanding of the barracks, but we couldn’t reach him. We later got to speak with a soldier who confirmed it that they were arrested by the DSS and brought to the army division. The soldier said the signal of their arrest warrant came from Abuja and that the army would take them to Abuja.
“We said, why would a signal come from Abuja regarding a small businessman but no one gave us any response? We tried to see him all to no avail. They didn’t even allow him to speak to us on phone. We tried to bring a change of clothes for him, we were not allowed.
“Later, the Association of Bureau De change operators hired a barrister for their members, and they went for a court sitting. The first day, the barrister said for the next sitting, his client should be present in court. But during the next sitting, the clients were absent again and the DSS lawyer asked the judge to give an extra three months because they are still investigating, the sitting was adjourned again for September 2.”
He added, “On that day again, the sitting was adjourned to September 8. When one of our family members went there; they were told that the judge is sick, that there is no sitting on that day.
“Honestly, we don’t need anything, we just want to know if they are alive and where are they. We are not going to interfere with the DSS work nor are we going to ask the security agencies to release them to us but they should allow the relatives to see and talk to them so our minds will be at rest. As of now, our mother is sick, she is confused.
“Human rights in Nigeria mean nothing. The fact that they have arrested someone over an allegation does not mean that the person should be hidden from his family.”
Another family member noted: “We are honestly depressed right now because this person that was arrested is one major pillar in the family. What we want is that the Nigerian government enforce their human rights because they have been arrested since March and are still held up in detention. What investigation takes up to six months? There is injustice in this government, for the period of six months; we have no access to him, that’s wrong.
“Even when they schedule court proceedings, we don’t see the accused persons in court. How do we know if they are still even alive?
”This even shows that the DSS has not found any piece of evidence to nail them with because how can someone be held up for six months in detention. This man was invited by the DSS and he obliged because he knows he has no skeleton in his cupboard.”