Sowore’s 17 hours freedom: The desecration of temple of justice and endless drama

Less than 24 hours after he heaved a sigh of relief from DSS captivity, the RevolutionNow activist,  Omoyele Sowore’s freedom was cut short last Friday when DSS stormed Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu’s court and re-arrested him. KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

The drama

Another drama ensued last week Friday at the premises of the federal high court in Abuja, when 17 hours after his release, some officers of the DSS, numbering about 15 again, laid ambush and re-arrested Omoyele Sowore and Adebayo Bakare.

Before now, the duo was arrested sometimes in August and is presently being arraigned by the DSS over alleged money laundering, cybercrime and charges of treason for calling for ‘Revolution’ protest against President Buhari government.

However, in guiding against the violation of their constitutional rights, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had on Thursday ordered the release of the duo within 24 hours, ordering the Department of State Security to comply with her pronouncement.

The pronouncement came after Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the same court ordered that Sowore and Bakare be released by the DSS, who held them in captive.

Addressing the court at Friday’s hearing, Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, told the Judge that the DSS finally released the duo at about 7pm on Thursday, a statement that generated commendation by the Judge, who hailed the security agency for obeying the court.

After the proceeding and moment after she made pronouncement on the date for continuation of trial, the unthinkable happened; Sowore was re-arrested within the premises of the federal high court in the full glare of the law.

Reason adduced was that the duo would be slammed with fresh charges.

The recent drama which started about the same time the court was still basking in the euphoria of the DSS demonstration of its commitment to rule of law, caused stampede as the officers cocked their guns to scare people away.

Desecrating the temple of justice

The stand-off which lasted almost two hours at the federal high court premises in Abuja saw supporters of the duo resisting attempts by men of the DSS to arrest them in the court.

When they spotted the DSS, they ran back into the court premises as the action resulted in a commotion.

 In the heat of the moment, Justice Ojukwu quickly retired into her chamber, just as Sowore and Bakare resisted being rearrested. The DSS operative’s action at Court 7 led to stoppage of court proceeding for the day.

After waiting in the court for about two hours after the attempt their lawyer, Femi Falana, who had denied knowledge of such fresh charges, led them downstairs where armed DSS personnel were waiting.

Falana started arguing with them, saying that they could not arrest within the premises of the court. But after some arguments, Sowore and Bakare were eventually whisked to the DSS facility in Falana’s car driven by DSS personnel and escorted by several other DSS trucks.

Treasonable felony, not a capital offence

Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome and the Nigerian Bar Association have blasted the Department of State Service over its alleged plans to report Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for admitting the detained Sowore to bail.

After earlier granted an order detaining him for 45 days, Justice Taiwo had ordered Sowore’s release, a move that almost caused fresh controversy.

Falana in a statementcastigated the the State Security Service (SSS), saying that the security agency cannot report Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for granting bail to the Sowore.

In a statement made available to newsmen, Falana argued that Justice Taiwo only exercised his discretion judicially in an application for the bail of a citizen.

The senior counsel also said the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not entertain the agency’s application to extend Sowore’s detention.

But when a Nigerian daily quoted an unnamed source and reported that the SSS was set to take Justice Taiwo to the NJC for granting Sowore bail, the lawyer described it as misleading, saying that the quotes in the report were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources.

He said, “I have since confirmed that the fictitious report is a figment of the fecund imagination of the writer. Hence, the report and the quotes therein were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources.

 “From the information at our disposal, the report was designed by the medium to blackmail and intimidate the Judges of the Federal High Court with respect to the trial of Sowore.”

“I wish to state without any fear of contradiction, that the Federal High Court is competent to admit a person charged with a capital offence to bail by virtue of section 161 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”

Falana insisted that Sowore has not been charged with capital offence contrary to the position of the SSS and The Nation newspaper.

“Treasonable felony is not a capital offence under section 41 of the Criminal Code. Even under the most brutal dictatorial regimes in Nigeria, our courts did not hesitate to uphold the fundamental right of the victims of repression to personal liberty, including those who were charged with treasonable felony,” he added.

“Having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case, the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not even entertain our application to quash the order for  Sowore’s detention for 45 days.”

Falana said it was due to the fact that the SSS counsel, Godwin Agbadua, withdrew his motion ex parte for an order to further detain Mr Sowore for additional 20 days that led to the judge granting him bail.

“To that extent, the National Judicial Council has no power to sanction a judicial officer for exercising his/her discretion judicially and judiciously in an application for the bail of a citizen. In other words, since the NJC is not an appellate court it cannot review the order for the conditional release of Mr Sowore from illegal custody.

And the half-nude women from Sowore’s town

Meanwhile, on the day he was released on bail, a group of half-naked women from the birthplace of Sowore, in Kiribo, Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State, had earlier stormed the Federal High Court in Abuja to protest the continued illegal detention of their son by the DSS.

Numbering about 50, the women as part of their protest, were decked in white wrappers and bra with no clothes covering the rest of the upper parts of their bodies.

The protesting women who arrived the court environment after the proceedings started on were not allowed entry into the court premises.

But they stayed by the gate brandishing their placards with various inscriptions calling for Sowore’s release and only departed long after the proceedings had ended.

In their Apoi dialect described themselves as beneficiaries of Sowore philanthropic gestures and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to release him from custody.

What next?

Following the failure of the secret police heed the last court order to the letter,  a lawyer who craved anonymous told Blueprint that the latest action exhibited by the DSS portends grave danger for the rule of law.

He added: “With this new development, the agency should be ready for more local and international condemnation of its crass disregard for our nation’s law.

Going forward, like the NBA noted, with the unfolding scenario, the Department of State Security is cutting for herself the notorious image of an agency that enjoys treating judicial process with disdain, particularly as it pertains to obeying orders of courts enforcing the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

It goes to say that as stipulated in Nigeria’s constitution, no one person shall be deprived of his liberty without a valid court order, as provided for in Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

By virtue of the provisions of Section, it behoves the DSS and other security agencie in the country to discontinue the detention of Sowore, Bakare, El-Zakzaky, Col. Sambo Dasuki and others still being detained unlawfully across their facilities in Nigeria.

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