Security Agents Arrest, Release Two
Printers, Hunt For Human Rights Activist
On 1 August 2005 at about noon (local time), operatives of Nigeria's
intelligence agency, the State Security Service (SSS), arrested two
printers, Steve Omali and Michael Damisa, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport
in Abuja and subsequently detained them for being in possession of
advocacy campaign materials which they printed for the Coalition Against
The coalition is an alliance of over 345 NGOs in 17 African and
non-African countries campaigning to ensure accountability for
international crimes for which fugitive former Liberian President, Mr.
Charles Taylor, has been indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Omali and Damisa had printed a set of posters on the "Charles Taylor
Wanted" campaign at the request of the Coalition, which is led by the Open
Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), Amnesty International (AI), Human
Rights Watch (HRW), the Nigerian Coalition on the International Criminal
Court (NCICC), and the Transitional Justice Working Group in Liberia.
The poster reproduced the "Interpol Red Notice" for Mr. Taylor, which was
issued in 2003 by the Interpol, of which Nigeria is a member. The SSS
confiscated 10,000 copies of the poster when they arrested the two
At about 3:00 p.m. on 1 August, Damisa's brother, Matthew Damisa, went to
visit him at the SSS Headquarters in Abuja and was also arrested by
security operatives. He remains in custody, along with the two printers.
On 2 August, two persons claiming to be operatives of the SSS, led by one
Victor Igwe, visited the offices of the OSJI in Abuja in search of its
Senior Legal Officer for Africa, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu. Odinkalu is one of
the leaders of the Coalition and a lawyer in a pending suit before the
Federal High Court in Abuja seeking a judicial review of the legality of
asylum granted Taylor by the Nigerian government.
The security agents said they had instructions from the Director General
of the SSS, Colonel Kayode Are, to bring Odinkalu to SSS headquarters for
questioning for allegedly sponsoring the printing of the posters. Odinkalu
was in Lagos at the time, but the security agents have paid repeated
visits to his office since then and have reportedly told OSJI staff that
will be willing to trade the detained printers for him. The security
reportedly staked out the premises of the OSJI office in their hunt for
On August 4, the SSS released Steve Omali and Michael Damisa from custody.
They were released on bail along with Damisa's brother, Matthew Damisa
The SSS, however, is continuing its hunt for Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, one of
the leaders of the Coalition. They have kept the OSJI premises under
surveillance in their search for him.