Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has revealed that he rejected an offer asking his client Omoyele Sowore to apologise to President Muhammadu Buhari, in a bid to get released from custody, when the Sahara Reporters publisher was detained in 2019.
Mr Falana in a statement on Thursday stated that he rejected the offer as presented by a government delegation comprising the late Isa Funtua and two others.
According to his statement titled, “On the collapse of secret meetings designed to compromise Omoyele Sowore in custody”, Falana did not only reject the offer, but he also rebuffed a rather ‘condescending’ statement by the late Isa Funtua, who was of the opinion that the regime in power could not be defeated.
“In fact, when the late Alhaji Isa Funtua said rather condescendingly at the Lagos meeting that the regime in power could not be defeated I was quick to remind him that the Nigerian people had defeated military dictators to pave way for the current civilian dispensation,” the rights activist stated.
Falana further revealed that he also rejected the delegation’s request to have Sowore, who was in detention, to write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the Federal Government.
Below is the full statement as published by Mr Femin Falana.
ON THE COLLAPSE OF SECRET MEETINGS DESIGNED TO COMPROMISE OMOYELE SOWORE IN CUSTODY
In a deliberate attempt to distort the proceedings of the secret meetings held by representatives of media publishers and officials of the presidency with Mr. Omoyele Sowore in the dungeon of the State Security Service last year Mr. Garba Shehu has continued to give the highly erroneous impression that the deal struck with the captive was frustrated by his lawyer.
Since Mr. Shehu’s memory failed him in his jejune narrative he said that “The meeting ended well, and contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board.
The fence-mending process collapsed after the meeting of the trio with the lawyer in Lagos.” Mr. Shehu ought to have published the terms of the “resolution” which he claimed that Mr. Sowore had accepted instead of of blaming the collapse of the “fence-mending process” on the intransigence of his lawyer “whoever that was (sic)”
I confirm that I held a meeting with the trio referred to by Mr. Shehu even though he did not mention my name.
Hence, I am compelled to react to a couple of issues raised in his incendiary account. More so that he did not attend the Lagos meeting. For reasons best known to Mr. Shehu he refused to inform the Nigerian people that I rejected the gratuitous request to prevail on Mr. Sowore to apologise to President Muhammadu Buhari and write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the federal government.
Apart from insisting that my client had committed no offence by exercising his freedom of expression over the perilous state of the nation I expressed my personal agony over the request because I won the legal battle wherein the Court of Appeal had upheld the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to protest against the government without police permit.
Mr. Shehu ought to have equally disclosed that I demanded for the unconditional release of my client from the unlawful incarceration of the State Security Service.
In particular, I recalled the case of Isa Funtua v The President wherein the plaintiff had challenged the obnoxious newspaper registration decree enacted by the Ibrahim Babangida junta in 1993. For goodness sake, is Mr. Shehu not aware of the fact that Mr. Sowore was charged with treasonable felony, money laundering and insulting President Buhari for daring to call off the bluff of the federal government?
It is interesting to note I had teamed up with other patriots in 2006 to campaign for the restoration of the liberty of Mr. Garba Shehu (who was then the spokesman for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) when he was detained by the State Security Service and charged before the Federal High Court with the offence of “obtaining, reproducing and keeping classified material” in contravention of the Official Secrets Act.
Happily, the charge filed against Mr. Shehu by the forces of incipient fascism in the country was withdrawn and struck out in his favour. In like manner, the charge of a treasonable felony which is hanging menacingly on the head of Mr. Omoyele Sowore like a sword of Damocles will also be struck out in his favour in the fullness of time.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed March 25, 2020, for the hearing of the N1 billion fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare.
The duo filed their separate suits against the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Yusuf Bichi, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, over their alleged illegal detention, prior to their release in December 2019.
Sowore and Bakare are being prosecuted by the Federal Government on charges of treasonable felony, in November 2019.
Operatives of the DSS arrested Mr Sowore in Lagos on August 2, 2019, and Bakare in Osogbo, Osun State, on August 5, 2019, for organising a protest tagged #RevolutionNow, which the Federal Government alleged was aimed at toppling the regime of the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
At the resumed hearing of their fundamental rights enforcement suits, Justice Inyang Ekwo in separate proceedings fixed the hearing of the two suits for March 25 after granting the applications for the regularisation of some processes filed out of time by the parties.
Messrs Sowore and Bakare who were detained in the custody of the DSS from August to December 2019 are demanding N500m damages each in their separate suits.
The applicants also want the court to declare that their arrest without warrant of arrest “is illegal as it violates” their fundamental right ‘to personal liberty’.
The prosecution in the trial of Mr Omoyele Sowore, and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare reported told a Federal High Court on Thursday that the Federal Government has paid the N200, 000 cost awarded against it the previous day by the court on grounds of delay.
At the commencement of proceedings on Thursday, lead prosecution, Aminu Alilu, confirmed that the payment was made to the defendants on Wednesday.
Mr Alilu also applied that the amended two counts charge newly filed against the defendants on February 10, 2020, be substituted with the old charges filed on September 20, 2019.
Confirming Mr Alilu’s claim regarding the fine, defence lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, confirmed that the N200, 000 cost was paid to the defence through the bank account of a senior member of the team, Mr Olayinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, on Wednesday.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu admitted the application by Alilu to substitute the previous charge of September 20, 2019, for fresh two-count charges bordering on treasonable felony dated February 10, 2020.
After hearing all sides on Thursday, Justice Ijeoma adjourned the case to the 11th, 12th and 13th of March for definite trial.
“In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State,” Mr Ayade told reporters on Monday at the presidential villa, Abuja, where he went to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
“He’s in court for treason, a state does not have the power to try anyone for treason, it’s not me.”
Governor Ayade said the arrest and trial of Agba Jalingo are in connection with Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protest, adding that the journalist left his core profession and began to meddle into politics.
“On his Facebook page, he sent pictures where he was being teargassed at the revolution march in Lagos. His own pictures, posted by himself and when Sowore was being arrested, he went back to his Facebook to post that the revolution has just started, ‘we will continue this battle until revolution works’. He admitted this in Court.
“You are seeing him as a journalist, but he’s not, he’s the chairman of Sowore’s party in Cross River State so he’s a politician. He has a primary calling, which is journalism.
“Once he started the campaign to overthrow the government of President Buhari, he ceased to be seen from the point of a journalist because he has become the state chairman of a party,” Governor Ayade stated.
The governor reiterated that he has been working for Mr. Jalingo’s release from Calabar prison where he has been incarcerated.
Until his arrest, Mr. Jalingo was the publisher of Cross RiverWatch.
He was apprehended was on August 22 allegedly over a report suggesting that Governor Ayade diverted N500 million belonging to the state, a claim which the government has strongly refuted.
As the year enters its final days, events across Nigeria and the world tend to take a different turn.
So much has been said within the course of the passing, here are some of those comments that give us an idea of what has transpired and leaves us room to project what possibilities await us in the coming week.
1. I wasn’t elected to fight the Executive but to collaborate.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says contrary to popular opinion, the current National Assembly is not a rubber stamp.
2. Nobody should pay N50 charges on POS transactions.
6. The only thing is to thank Nigerians, they made this happen they should not relent.
The convener of #RevolutionNow protests, Mr Omoyele Sowore, thanks Nigerians following his departure from the custody of the Department of State Service (DSS).
7. Wherever there is disorder, you cannot kill corruption.
President of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) Global, Matthew Ashimolowo says that corruption can only be reduced to its barest minimum if there are order and a system that kills the act.
8. Buhari is a democrat, he respects the constitution.
9. The United States itself has a lot to chew solving its own problems not to talk of poke-nosing into another country. Nobody has appointed them the policeman of the world. Let them face their own issue.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina criticizes the United States’ government for placing Nigeria on the Special Watchlist of countries violating religious freedom.
10. I am APC Leader in Edo, Oshiomhole remains suspended.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki insists that suspension of the party’s national chairman Adams Oshiomhole from the state chapter of the party remains and it is in the best interest.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary Human Rights and Legal Matters on Thursday asked the Department of State Service (DSS) and Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu to submit a memorandum on the alleged invasion of a Federal High Court within 24 hours.
The Committee also asked the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Counsel to Omoyele Sowore, Femi Falana, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, and the Office of the Chief Judge of Federal High Court to each submit a memorandum on the incident.
DSS operatives had allegedly invaded the Federal High Court in Abuja to rearrest publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore few hours after he was released on December 6.
Each of the memoranda is expected to detail the events of the day.
Giving the directive, the Committee Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, explained that the panel is unable to hold the scheduled investigative hearing as the Senate suspended all activities in honour of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu who died in Abuja on Wednesday.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, stated on Monday that the Federal Government will not make unilateral decisions with respect to the release of Omoyele Sowore from the custody of the Department of State Service (DSS).
Mr Malami in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations mister Umar Gwandu said that the government is guided by extant laws and tradition of the law in handling legal matters and related litigations.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami says that the Federal Government has ordered an investigation into Friday’s invasion of the Federal High Court in Abuja, by the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Mr. Malami stated this during a visit to the Federal High Court on Wednesday.
When asked about the invasion, Mr. Malami said: “I am certain of is that the government has put in place a mechanism for investigation of the reported incident.”
Mr. Malami who was in court for a courtesy visit to the Chief Judge of the court, John Tsoho, stressed that he did not visit the Chief Judge over Mr. Omoyele Sowore’s case but to congratulate him on his confirmation by the Senate as the substantive Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
He said: “It is about tradition and not a coincidence but then the truth of the matter is, I’m not here about Sowore’s case. I’m here to visit his lordship to congratulate him over his appointment but one thing about the judicial process, I think it is not the only case that the federal government is involved”.
Channels Television had reported how the DSS officials invaded a Federal High court on Friday in a bid to rearrest rights activist, Omoyele Sowore.
The Sahara Reporters Publisher had been released Thursday night, after over 100days in detention, based on the order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.
Following the rearrest attempt which has been termed a desecration of court, the government has come under severe criticism for not condemning the invasion and holding the DSS officials accountable.
Counsel to Mr Omoyele Sowore and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the Federal Government to stop subjecting his client to a media trial.
Mr Falana said it is embarrassing that the Federal Government which has found it difficult to prove its case in a competent court of law has resorted to the media trial of Sowore.
The rights activist said, even though the government has failed to engage in the diligent prosecution of the serious case, the Presidency has resorted to media trial while the charge of treasonable felony is allowed to hang menacingly on the heads of his clients.
Reacting to a statement by a presidential spokesperson, Mr. Garba Shehu claiming that “Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria,” Mr Falana said he and his team are not going to be tempted to join issues with the Presidency over a case that is pending before a properly constituted court of law.
He said if the Presidency is so sure that his clients committed a treasonable felony or any other offence whatsoever it should keep its powder dry and advise the prosecution to commence the trial without any further delay.
Falana said it is common knowledge that Sowore and Bakare are not among the well-known merchants of violence and coup plotters that had successfully but illegally removed democratically elected governments in Nigeria his team is not going to join issues with Mr Garba Shehu over the highly contemptuous statements credited to him.
The Senior Advocate, however, argued that as a senior journalist Mr Shehu ought to have known that it is highly unprofessional to subject a man who is held incommunicado to scurrilous attacks in the media.
The lawyer stated that he is convinced that Sowore will have a right to reply once the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people are restored.
He noted that even though the allegations of terrorism and treasonable felony against Sowore had collapsed like a pack of cards the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN engaged in a face-saving measure by charging him (Sowore) and Olawale Bakare with a treasonable felony for planning to organise public protests against the Buhari administration.
Speaking further, Falana said that while not sure that the charge of a treasonable felony would succeed in the court the AGF proceeded to charge Sowore with money laundering and cyberstalking for allegedly insulting President Buhari in a television interview.
He stressed that while Sowore and his co-defendant have been held in custody even after being granted bails by competent courts, the organisers of the public protests which were held in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Cross River and Osun states who were charged with unlawful assembly, but have been discharged and the case dismissed following the no-case submission of the defence counsel, Mr Effiong Inibehe.
According to Mr Falana, the defendants in the other cases have been granted bail pending trial by the various Magistrate Courts.
“Having met the bail conditions they have regained their freedom,” he added.
He expressed optimism that his clients will also soon regain their freedom, stressing that his team is considering several legal actions following the rearrest.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has criticised the Department of State Services (DSS) for the re-arrest of the convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore.
While delivering a keynote address at an event organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to mark the UN Day on Anti-Corruption, Soyinka described the act as another form of corruption.
He had earlier condemned the invasion of a court in Abuja by operatives of the DSS in a bid to re-arrest Mr Sowore.
In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Professor Soyinka asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the agency to order.
The Nobel laureate also warned the government to uphold and respect judicial institutions in order to prevent the present situation from degenerating into chaos.
He also advised that those he described as the “wild dogs of disobedience” be taught some basic court manners.
Before Friday’s incident occurred, the court had ruled to adjourn the trial of Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, until February 11, 2020.
The duo are facing charges of treason following the demonstrations by some Nigerians under the #RevolutionNow to protest what they described as worsening conditions in the country.
Read his full speech below.
THE OPEN SOCIETY ENDANGERED
(Being a talk delivered at the UN World Anti-Corruption Day, Abuja, Dec. 9. 2019)
Present here, I fully expect, is the Youth contingent of this undertaking. We are still within the United Nations designated Year of the Child, and that makes youth involvement doubly appropriate as an integral part of our encounter. This is not mere sentiment.
As some of you here may recall, I have referred to my set on occasion as the Wasted Generation. I recall that this led to some members of the generation after mine referring to theirs as the Lost Generation. It all happened during a lecture, and the speaker’s comment went thus: “Professor Soyinka does not know how lucky he is. His generation has been merely wasted, ours is lost.” I do not know if that speaker was right, or I was, or maybe both were. Frankly, I am not even sure which is worse – to be lost or to be wasted. All I am certain of is – moral endangerment, the degradation of moral sensibilities in the vulnerable sector of any society, however, defined. That impressionable sector is always at risk wherever abnormalities become accepted as the norm, and the jettisoning of moral restraints is lauded, through example, as the basis of routine existence.
If I may use a notorious example, can anyone of us have failed to remark how the phenomenon of cult-ism has penetrated downwards, lower and lower in generational infiltration until we now read of it even in some elite primary schools? Children may not find themselves in situations where they can actual engage in corrupt practices, but they grow up eventually into that stage, and if they have been raised in an environment where adults are exposed as corrupt, even expelled from their positions of status, only to return to their home base, to be lauded by their communities, received with pomp and pageantry and garlanded with chieftaincy titles, it requires no special exercise of the imagination to project what the future holds for overall society. The principle of “catch them young” is one that pervades most spheres of human activity, so it’s all a question of who does the “catching”. If we are serious and convinced about a foundational principle of social conduct, then we obviously cannot leave others to do the catching.
One of the most telling exercises I have indulged in my creative career was one which evolved from my activities in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. We initiated a youth item called “The Vision of the Child”.
This consisted of members of that yet undefined generation being set a theme for creative interpretation – in painting, essay and even poetic forms. We encouraged them to let their imagination roam free in all directions. One such themes that I set them was “The Thousand And One Faces of Corruption”. The results were remarkable. If anyone thought that children even at the ‘innocent’ age downwards from thirteen or fourteen all the way down to seven or six, do not know what ‘corruption’ means, how it works, how it affects their lives and their families, they should see some of those visual and literary compositions, talk to their authors and artists, and ask the latter to explain some of the seemingly abstruse images they create. You would be thoroughly chastened. For example, even I had not thought of dragging Sambisa forest into the geography of corruption, being too preoccupied with the horror of that outrage in itself. They did, albeit inspired by an earlier thematic imposition – THE ROAD TO SAMBISA.
This is how it all begins – read their submissions -, with corruption over-whelming even basic social and governance responsibilities. Mr. Magu, the chairman of EFCC happened on that exhibition, and was sufficiently struck as to request that it tour the nation. We were more than willing. Some of his staff visited the exhibition at Freedom Park and went into preliminaries with our young collaborators. That was – how many years ago? More ruefully, will that exhibition ever travel beyond its present con-fines?
Since then, that initiative has metamorphosed into an even more elaborate movement with the name Corruption Busters – launched in Lekki in December 2017. I was able to attend just the beginning of the event but, from evidence of the video recording, the Vice-President threw himself most vigorously into that initiative. So did a couple of supportive foreign embassies Since then however, that movement appears to have gone into recession – but I may be wrong. I would be curious to see if they participated in the Walk from EFCC to this venue this morning. If not, Mr. Magu, you and I have a problem!
The coincidence of global affirmations of past agreements on social conduct such as the ongoing celebration of the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Anti-Corruption Day which is today, rein-forced by the World Human Rights Day on Tuesday, tomorrow, should be exploited to the fullest, not merely to involve that generation in a progressive seizure of society and humanity, but also to compel adults to see both themselves and the society they have created through the eyes of children, obtain a glimpse of how that generation itself views and assesses the conduct and values of their parents, uncles, aunts, chiefs, their ministers, even their priests and supposed moral exemplars.
Youth participation takes multiple forms, even where the youths are not physically present. Images are useful ‘take-away’ teachers. The venue of this encounter could have been festooned with the results from that – or similar — exhibitions, or other related exercises that represent minds yet under formation. If you must take on corruption, which runs 24/7 all-year-round, then we must be alert to all opportunities to propagate the counter-gospel 24/7 all year round, with bonus ‘opportunity targets’ – to borrow from military par-lance – such as the mentioned triple notations on the UN calendar. Do some of us sometimes perhaps appear obsessed by this problem? Of course. Long before any government ever thought it to make it its business, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian individuals in their fields of activities have tackled it head-on with all attendant risk. The choice was ‘join them or fight them’. How many here are old enough to have heard of the civilian Anti-Bribery League headed by the owner – I hopefully recollect — of Lisabi Mills in Yaba? Or later, of the government’s short-lived initiative, the X-Squad with offices in 5(?) Milverton Street, Ikoyi? Somehow or the other it takes on the intensity of a personal battle, for which agonizing setbacks, such as the assassination of the late Bola Ige, a personal friend, but also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of this nation, only serve as further spur. Only the cynical fail to accept that it is a contest that transcends politics, partisanship and even governance, which, in this particular instance, has sunk in recent times to its lowest ebb.
Corruption triggers off numerous collateral activities in institutional conduct and governmental inter-face with citizenry, confrontation with its effects is thus plainly transformational. This means that, for any cor-ruption degraded society, it should be nothing less than revolutionary in approach – call it by that or any other word, it is still a revolutionary undertaking. Revolution Now? Or Soon? Later or Whenever? An anti-corruption focus is surely integral to any revolutionary agenda, often it constitutes its very trigger – check any society you wish – from Cuba through China to Egypt or Myammar.
Corruption is hardly ever omitted in the list of indictments that justify that very undertaking called a revolution. Thus, anti-corruption activism is a conscious, revolutionary offensive that aims at transformation of the totality of the social phenomena. Those agencies, or governments that permit themselves to be terrified by the word had better learn to live with it. Even governments sometimes pride themselves with claims that they have revolutionized this or that facet of society or indeed, of governance itself., meaning that such a government embarks on a drastic self-transformation in both form and practice. So much, in general terms.
Now we turn our spotlight more specifically on that agency that appears to consider the word treasonable. Has anyone been following recent testimonies in the media by those who have entered the dungeons of the state security agency and lived to tell the tale? What has emerged in these past few days is that the very agency that recently desecrated the sanctum of justice is itself charged with corruption. It is publicly claimed that extortion has become commonplace, inflicted on helpless citizens, some of whom lack a voice, or influential contacts, unlike the yet ongoing instance of a former media publisher and presidential candidate. Corruption can only be fought and degraded, if not entirely destroyed, within the reality of an open society. And an open society is built and sustained on the freedom of expression.
And here comes the complement to that assault. We need only veer laterally and consider a recent – perhaps merely fortuitous act of – partnership by another governance installation – the legislative houses. We must thank the DSS for impressing on us the same obligatory call to interrogate any proposition that curtails that right of free expression, even where camouflaged under the rubric of Hate Speech. Or Fake news. Both, we all agree are not only harmful but cowardly and despicable. However, combine these recent sample offerings from the two institutional within the context of an Open Society and where do we find ourselves? Let me repeat: a legislature proposes nothing less than capital punishment for what it deems Hate speech. First, are we really prepared to take on the awful responsibility of telling our children that the rational response to any kind of social outrage is to kill? Does that truly reflect the ascent of humanity from instinctive animal predatoriness? Let us take a moment to follow the trajectory of what amounts to nothing less than a vicious cycle. This very setting in which we are assembled, Aso Rock, could not be more appropriate for charting the perilous waters into which this nation is being plunged. So, here goes, a reconstruction that should by no means be considered a worst-case scenario.
Society does not operate in virtual reality. We exist palpably. The structure that is constitutionally empowered to determine what is denounced as Hate or Toxic Speech is rendered ineffectual daily through acts of executive condescension and disdain from the peak of governance. The seal of desecration was finally plant-ed on the institution of law, the sole legitimate adjudicator, by an agency that now stands accused of violating the very principles that this agency, the EFCC and its sister ICPC, were set up to uphold. Is it excessive to consider the possibility that other potential accusers of that security agency are locked up in dungeons, some for-gotten for upwards three to four years? Kindly check the media for testimonies of those who have recently been discharged from or discovered in DSS custody after years in their hellholes. How would the DSS now respond, given the protection of this ready-to-kill Bill on Hate? Obviously, with complaint of Hate Attack by the accusers, punishable by death. The agency proceeds to arrest the newspaper staff and the accusers. The case goes to hearing. The judge sets a date and grants the accusers bail. What happens next? The agency under accusation invades the court, scatters everyone, pounces on the recently bailed ‘felon’ and drags him off struggling desperately for life and liberty. That, I repeat, is not a worst-case scenario, nor is it far-fetched. The blueprint is out in public domain.
The anti-corruption offensive, on which we are hopefully sincerely engaged, is meaningless without complete openness and without the total liberty of every citizen, subject only to constraints imposed under the law. It is, therefore, most heart-warming that civil society is waking up to its responsibilities and has called strongly for an apology to the nation from the so-called Directorate of State Services. We must proceed further. We need from the DSS a list of all its current detainees, their names, addresses and records of confinement. I see no security issue fulfilled in keeping such names secret. Why is any citizen reduced to paying 50,000 Naira to bribe an officer to procure a cellphone, just to let his family know that he is alive but immured in a dungeon? The right to information must be exercised comprehensively and most certainly in favour of citizen liberty, in conformity to that third United Nations notation – Human Rights – that it has designated for tomorrow. So perhaps something positive will be extracted from this collective violation that this nation has recently undergone.
With that foregoing, Greetings on my own behalf, and on behalf of – shall we call them? – the anxious generation, on this World’s Anti-Corruption Day. Let this morning’s overture, the symbolic walk from the des-ignated citadel of ethical transformation to this venue be absorbed as a walk to freedom within a corruption-free air for those forgotten Nigerians in illegal captivity. A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, wrote Nelson Mandela, victim of a vicious system called apartheid. We do not labour under apartheid terror, so let us shorten that walk and open up society by giving voice to the voiceless, and presence to the absent, held under our very nos-es under inhuman conditions, forced to pay for the privilege of reminding the rest of us, in approximate free-dom, that they still exist. In short, let us embrace the liberating, transformative spirit of — if not exactly Revolution Now – then at least, maybe — Liberation Now?
Counsel to Mr. Omoyele Sowore and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has insisted that the DSS is guilty of desecrating the court despite the denial by the service.
The secret police had invaded the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday to rearrest Omoyele Sowore, convener of the #RevolutionNow movement, barely 24 hours after he was released on the order of the court.
The DSS however, denied infiltrating the court, stating that the Service did not attempt arresting Sowore inside the court, alleging that his supporters only “stage-managed the drama” to bring the service to disrepute.
Debunking the claim by the DSS, Mr. Falana said not only did the DSS officials invade the court premises, causing the court to hurriedly end its activities, their leader also apologised to the judge.
According to Mr. Falana the presiding judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu had summoned the head of the DSS team in her chambers and asked him to justify the invasion of the court after which he reportedly offered an apology before he was asked to withdraw his men from the courtroom.
Below is a full statement from Mr Falana regarding the matter.
SSS APOLOGISED FOR INVASION OF COURT!
Our attention has been drawn to the self contradictory press release of the SSS in which an unsuccessful attempt was made to absolve itself of responsibility for the armed invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division, in general, and the desecration of Court No 7 of Hon. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in particular as well as the illegal rearrest of Omoyele Sowore.
First, pretending to forget that the abominable desecration of the Federal High Court was covered live by domestic and international media outfits and journlists, some of whom were also direct victims of the gangsterism, barbarism and brutalisation displayed by officers of the Service on the 6th day of December 2019, the Service has conducted “eye witness” accounts of what transpired with the aim of showing that officers of the Service were not involved in the rearrest of Sowore.
Second, the Service argues on the one hand that the arrest of Sowore was “stage managed” by his supporters in order to give the Service a bad name whilst also admitting at the same time that officers of the Service arrested Sowore outside the Court. Having declared that the Service arrested Sowore “outside the court”, despite the “stage managing” argument, what the Nigerian people want to see happen is the immediate release of Sowore, pending his trial as ordered by the court.
INDUBITABLE FACTS CONFIRMING DESECRATION OF COURT AND RE-ARREST BY THE SERVICE
However, the following facts underscore our insistence that the Service was solely responsible for the desecration of the hallowed chambers of the court:
By the advantage of information technology, the whole world has placed responsibility for the gangsteric desecration of the court on the SSS. The SSS cannot extricate itself from the abominable acts of 6th December, 2019.
When I informed the court that fresh charges were being filed against our clients and that they could be re-arrested, the prosecution denied any such plan.
As soon as the case was adjourned the SSS pounced on Sowore and caused a disruption of the proceedings of the court. Having taken over the court room vi et armis Justice Ojukwu hurriedly rose and asked the Registrar to adjourn all other cases. After the learned trial judge had risen for the day she summoned the heads of the prosecution and defence teams to her chambers.
When the lead prosecutor, Dr. Liman Hassan SAN denied knowledge of the invasion of her court she directed him to invite the head of the sss team in the court. When challenged to justify the invasion of the court the officer could not. He apologised to Justice Ojukwu on behalf of the sss. The judge then directed the officer to withdraw the sss operatives from the court room. The directive was complied with as the operatives withdrew from the court room but rushed out to join their colleagues who had taken over the entire court house.
Notwithstanding that the sss could not produce any warrant of arrest for Sowore the defence team decided that I should accompany him to the sss headquarters in view of his physical brutalisation inside the court room and the open threat to his life. I did and ensured that he was driven in my car to the sss headquarters where I handed him over to the officers on duty. Thereafter, I requested for a meeting with the head of the sss but I was informed that he was not in the office.
Though, ordinarily, officers of the Service do not wear any uniform, on the 6th day of December, some of them were in mufti, many were not only armed but also masked while others disguised in lawyer’s black and white suit. Regardless of the form of appearance, the officers of the Service inside Court No. 7 were identifiable by their roles and acts of seizing Sowore and pinning him down. It is an utter poor reasoning to say that Sowore’s supporters were also those bent on injuring him in order to arrest him. The argument of the Service in this respect is as unfortunate and pitiable as the earlier argument of the Service in respect of the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi who was once accused of wanting to set ablaze his own house.
If Sowore’s supporters subjected him to such brutalisation in the presence of sss operatives why were they not arrested for contravening the provisions of the Anti Torture Act, 2017? Or were the SSS operatives expecting the supporters of a defendant wanted by the State to kill him in their presence?
Before submitting himself for arrest Sowore had rightly demanded for a warrant of arrest and detention order but the sss operatives were unable to produce either.
ON RATIONALISATION OF RE-ARREST OF SOWORE BY THE SERVICE
In rationalizing the re-arrest of Sowore, which is denied in the same Press statement, the Serivce alleged that Sowore held metings with some people. Assuming without conceding that Sowore held meetings with some people in Transcorp Hotel as alleged by the sss, why did the Prosecution not inform the trial court that the defendant had breached his bail condition?
ON THE CLAIM OF THE SERVICE THAT IT IS LAW-ABIDING
The sss says it is a law abiding institution. But why did it refuse to comply with the order of Justice Taiwo to release Sowore? Why did the sss threaten to report the judge to the NJC for granting bail to Sowore? Why did the sss subject the order of Justice Ojukwu for the release of Sowore to its own approval by asking the sureties already verified by the judge to report themselves to the sss? Why the SSS wait for the 24-hour ultimatum issued by the trial judge before releasing Sowore and Bakare,?
Incidentally, the current prosecutor, Dr. Liman Hassan SAN was the counsel to the defendant in the case of FRN v Air Commodore Mohammed. In that case the order of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba for the release of the defendant on bail was flouted by the SSS. As if that was not enough, the sss invaded the home of the judge on 8th October 2016 when the houses of judges accused of corruption were raided. Even though I have never appeared before Justice Dimgba I have always known him as a judge of impecable integrity. So, I challenged the sss for painting an incorruptible judge with the brush of shame. It was after my intervention that the NJC gave the judge a clean bill of health.
Thereafter, the judge was compelled to withdraw from the case. The SSS thought that it had won but it was a phyrric victory. Thus, Justice John Tsoho (current Chief Judge of the federal high court) to whom the case was re assigned reiterated the orders of Justice Dimgba and proceeded to rule that trial would not commence in the case until the defendant was released from custody. It was at that stage that the sss complied with the order of the federal high court.
In the light of the foregoing we reiterate our demand for the release of not only Sowore in obedience to court orders, pending the verdict of the court in their trial. We equally call for the release of all other political detainees, and criminal sispects who have been admitted to bail pending trial by competent courts.
Finally, it is common knowledge that this country was ruled by military dictators for about three decades. On no occassion did security operatives invade court premises to arrest political activists inside a court room. Therefore, the bizzaire harassment of courts cannot be tolerated under a democratically government that claims to operated under the rule of law.