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.
The Presidency says the Department of State Services does not necessarily need the permission of President Muhammadu Buhari to arrest persons of interest like a detained activist, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
This is according to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu.
In the statement, the president’s aide noted that the DSS does not necessarily need the permission of the Presidency in all cases to carry out its essential responsibilities that are laid down in the Nigerian Constitution – which was the foundation for the restoration of democracy in our country in 1999.
Mr. Shehu further stated that it should not surprise anyone who has followed Sowore’s actions and words that the Sahara Reporters Publisher is a person of interest to the DSS.
He said Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.
“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely-read digital newspaper run from the United States of America.
“He founded an organisation, Revolution Now, to launch, in their own words, “Days of Rage”, with the publicised purpose of fomenting mass civil unrest and the elected administration’s overthrow,” Garba Shehu said.
The President’s spokesman argued that no government will allow anybody to openly call for destabilization in the country and do nothing.
He further stressed that Mr. Sowore is no ordinary citizen expressing his views freely on social media and the internet.
“He was a presidential candidate himself, who ran – and lost – as the flag bearer of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23 general elections.”
The presidency via its spokesman noted that Nigeria’s democracy was a long time in the making and was achieved after decades of often harsh, military-led overthrows of government: the kind of situation which he claims Mr. Sowore was advocating.
He said, “To believe in and desire an armed revolution is not normal amongst ‘human rights activists’, as Sowore has been incorrectly described.
“Again, it is no surprise that he should be a person of interest to the DSS.
“Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the northeastern region of our country.
“The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in faraway New York – and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu.”
Mr. Shehu in his concluding argument said the Sowore case is a matter for the DSS, acting under its powers.
According to the elder statesman, never in the history of Nigerian democracy has a judge been treated in such a disdainful and brazen attack on not just her person and office, but on the entire judiciary.
“This is unacceptable. It is a rape on the sanctity of the court. Nigeria is not a dictatorship. We are a democracy, no matter how inconvenient this fact is to the powers that have forced themselves on us,” Atiku said.
He called for an immediate inquiry to be set up to identify those responsible for the maltreatment meted out to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu and the desecration of her court, and indeed the Nigerian judiciary.
“They must be sanctioned to the highest extent permissible by our laws.”
He further called for all law enforcement agencies in Nigeria to immediately respect not just the court order made by Justice Ojukwu, but the order of any court in Nigeria, on any detainee, be it Omoyele Sowore, Sambo Dasuki or Ibrahim Zakzaky, among others.
Atiku said the nation cannot have a situation where its government is quick to obey foreign court orders and even quicker to disobey domestic court orders, adding that this is symptomatic of a mindset that is servile to foreign powers and brutal to Nigerians.
“Without the rule of law, there can be no rule at all. Power in Nigeria still flows from the people, not from the barrel of a gun. I call on all men and women of goodwill not to keep quiet or sit on the fence at times like this.
“To keep Nigeria democracy is the paramount duty of all concerned stakeholders. Please speak up against this tyranny and side with the Nigerian people,” Atiku opined.
Mr. Sowore was released on Thursday night after the court gave Nigeria’s secret police a 24-hour ultimatum to release him.
The court also awarded N100,000 against the prosecution for failing to comply with court orders requesting the release of Sowore and for not serving the defence counsel with necessary documents early enough.
But as everyone filed out of the courtroom, no fewer than 15 armed officers of the DSS, who had laid an ambush for the defendants, made their way towards Sowore and his co-defendant Bakare, who put up a resistance but were eventually whisked away.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has “strongly condemned the violent re-arrest today of Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the apparent harassment and intimidation of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.”
Armed DSS officials reportedly stormed the courtroom, causing pandemonium at the court and physically assaulting Mr. Sowore. The judge reportedly had to take cover. She had earlier ordered the DSS to release Sowore within 24 hours and also pay him N100,000 for improper legal conduct. The DSS then released Mr. Sowore only for him and his co-defendant to be violently re-arrested.
Reacting, SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The appalling invasion of the courtroom and the ill-treatment of Sowore and Bakare is a blatant attack on the rule of law and the sanctity and integrity of our justice system. An independent judiciary, free from intimidation and harassment is a basic precondition to a functioning democracy under the rule of law.”
SERAP’s statement read in part: “The violent re-arrest of Sowore and Bakare right inside the courtroom is a textbook case of a mockery of justice and abuse of the judicial process. It drives home the failure of the Nigerian government to fulfill its constitutional and international human rights obligations to respect citizens’ human rights and observe the rule of law.”
“What happened in the courtroom is a fatal blow to human rights and the independence and integrity of the judiciary. SERAP is seriously concerned that the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not observing fundamental international human rights and due process standards.”
“We urge the Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Sowore and Bakare and end the fragrant attack on the rule of law. “If Nigerian authorities are serious about human rights and the rule of law, they should hold those responsible to account. Only then will Nigerians have full confidence in this government’s ability to protect their human rights, obey the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”
“The United Nations Human Rights Council, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and members of the international community should urgently put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to end serious violations and abuses of human rights and threats to the rule of law in Nigeria.”
Operatives of the Department of State Services on Friday re-detained founder of the Revolution Now campaign, Omoyele Sowore less than 24 hours after they released him.
Sowore was re-arrested following an earlier futile attempt by DSS operatives to arrest him inside the courtroom of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
He was eventually whisked away at the court premises and taken to the office of the DSS where he is being detained.
Sowore was released on Thursday night after months in DSS detention, following an order by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, who gave the security agency a 24-hour ultimatum.
His re-arrest has sparked reactions from many Nigerians including celebrities who took to social media messaging platform, Twitter to express disdain over the
Pop star, David Adeleke popularly known by his fans as Davido lamented that “Justice slowly becoming a thing of the past in our dear country.” He also tagged another top musician Falz, who father, Femi Falana (SAN) is Sowore’s lawyer. He added that he Senior Advocate is a legend.
Justice slowly becoming a thing of the past n our dear country …. a kid somewhere in nigeria dreaming of becoming a lawyer and bettering the community would see this and start having doubts … just sad https://t.co/eUOMkBQPze
Banky Wellington, a singer and actor in his reaction said Sowore’s re-arrest brings shame to Nigeria’s Democracy.
“This is an absolute disgrace to our country & a blatant abuse of human rights. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Sowore’s political ambitions or not. This is a new low, even for us,” he said.
This brings shame to our fragile Democracy. This is an absolute disgrace to our country & a blatant abuse of human rights. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Sowore’s political ambitions or not. This is a new low, even for us. @MBuhari pls surprise us & do the right thing https://t.co/H0zsni1UrO
In a satirical reaction, popular comedian Frank Donga described the re-arrest as a kidnap inside a courtroom.
Is somebody getting ‘kidnapped’ inside a courtroom? I wonder the kind of technology used in this video. 🤔 Anyway, let’s be patient till the right people are ‘aware’ of this matter. It’s all #lovespeech from here. 😁❤️🤷🏽♂️ https://t.co/3iFGaV6oo6
We are in serious trouble ooo…if the DSS can do this in broad daylight…with everyone recording and posting on social media, imagine what they would do if they can regulate social media!! They have plans…vile vile plans…and it’s up to us to scatter their plans…
On Friday, men from the Department of State Services re-detained founder of the Revolution Now campaign, Omoyele Sowore less than 24 hours after they released him.
Moments after he was re-detained, Mr. Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, exclusively spoke to Channels Television about the development. Here are five takeaways from what he said.
DSS ‘Disrupted’ Court Proceedings to Arrest Sowore
After his release Thursday evening, Sowore was set to appear in court the next day. He did, accompanied by Mr. Falana and some of his supporters.
The high court in Abuja, presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, was sitting to ascertain whether the DSS had complied with its order directing the release of Mr. Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare.
However, after the judge adjourned the case between Sowore and the federal government till February 2020, DSS officials swooped in.
“ . . . the SSS operatives pounced on the court, disrupted proceedings and then attempted to arrest our clients even in the web of the court.”
‘It was extremely embarrassing’
Mr. Falana described the ensuing scenario as “extremely embarrassing.
“It has never happened in Nigeria where you enter a court to arrest anybody, even an alleged coup-plotter. The atmosphere was very rowdy.”
Footages obtained by Channels Television showed Mr. Sowore involved in a scuffle inside the courtroom.
‘No arrest can take place within the court premises’
Faced with the “rowdy” situation, Mr. Falana insisted to DSS officials that they had no right to arrest Sowore within the premises of a court.
“I insisted that the arrest could not be carried out within the precinct of the court,” Mr. Falana said.
A crowd resisted Sowore’s arrest
Footages obtained by Channels Television showed people standing in front of DSS vehicles in order to frustrate their plans to arrest Sowore in court.
“He was going to be arrested outside the premises but there was a crowd that resisted the arrest, but I appealed to everybody and asked Sowore to jump into my car and so we drove to the office of the SSS because they said he will just answer a few questions, but now he is being detained,” Mr. Falana said.
Why was Sowore arrested?
Apparently, no one knows yet, not even Mr. Falana.
“Nobody has disclosed yet what his charges are; he couldn’t have committed any other offense because he has been detained for the past four months unless the SSS wants to tell the whole world that he committed this fresh offense while in their custody,” Mr. Falana said.
Mr. Falana said he will explore provisions of the law to secure his client’s release.
“We are going to take steps under the law by asking for his release again since they are claiming this is a fresh arrest,” he said.
Former Presidential candidates, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) reacted to the rearrest describing it as a savage act by the DSS operatives.
“This savage act by the DSS operatives just proved to the whole world that the Executive arm of the Federal Government has no respect for the Judiciary and no regard for the rule of law & separation of powers.”
This savage act by the DSS operatives just proved to the whole world that the Executive arm of the Federal Government has no respect for the Judiciary and no regard for the rule of law & separation of powers.
“President @MBuhari, the whole world is watching the video of officials of the State Security Service which you directly supervise, brutally violate the constitutional rights of a citizen @YeleSowore inside a court and desecrated our Judiciary- an independent arm of government.”
President @MBuhari , the whole world is watching the video of officials of the State Security Service which you directly supervise, brutally violate the constitutional rights of a citizen @YeleSowore inside a court and desecrated our Judiciary- an independent arm of government. https://t.co/OkzyISS7Ae
The rearrest of Sowore, according to Kayode Ogundamisi, an Anti-Corruption Campaigner is counter-productive and ill-advised.
“Attempts by the DSS to re-arrest @YeleSowore and Bakare in court is counterproductive and ill-advised, it appears all the DSS want is to keep both Sowore and Bakare in perpetuity. @[email protected] & @ProfOsinbajo should listen to wise counsel. Direct he DSS to obey the law.”
Sowore’s rearrest which was caught on camera, drew the attention of many, including Nedu Ekeke of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign.
“I’m having goosebumps watching that video. OMG! Have you @ProfOsinbajo seen the video of how DSS abducted Sowore in an open court? Before a sitting judge? If @MBuhari is unaware of the implication of that action, are you, dear professor of Law, also unaware?”
I’m having goosebumps watching that video.
Have you @ProfOsinbajo seen the video of how DSS abducted Sowore in an open court? Before a sitting judge?
If @MBuhari is unaware of the implication of that action, are you, dear professor of Law, also unaware?
Popular social commentator, JJ Omojuwa, said that the treatment of Sowore shows a disregard for the rule of law by the Buhari-led administration.
“This is @MBuhari‘s legacy. When he is out of power, this will rank as the one thing he’d wish never happened. This is a blatant disregard for the rule of law, order & justice. A government shouldn’t take the law in its hands. @ProfOsinbajo this is a shared legacy #FreeSoworeNow”
This is @MBuhari ‘s legacy. When he is out of power, this will rank as the one thing he’d wish never happened. This is a blatant disregard for the rule of law, order & justice. A government shouldn’t take the law in its hands. @ProfOsinbajo this is a shared legacy #FreeSoworeNowhttps://t.co/UJn45JX6Pk
Other users, including the President of The National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Bello Shagari expressed their views on the matter, including an advise for the #RevolutionNow convener, Mr. Sowore.
“I really expected Sowore to have flown back to retreat in New York as soon as he was released. Doing so would not have been cowardly but strategic.”
I really expected Sowore to have flown back to retreat in New York as soon as he was released. Doing so would not have been cowardly but strategic.
A twitter user, M. Abba aired a contrary view, asking Mr. Sowore to reap from what he allegedly said about former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.
“Jonathan is worst Nigerian leader” ~Sowore 12 July 2014 The same Sowore who backed Buhari in 2015 was detained for more than 100 days without given bail, under Buhari’s admin He was finally released and rearrested in a courtroom under Buhari’s admin Reap what you sow.”
“Jonathan is worst Nigerian leader” ~Sowore 12 July 2014
The same Sowore who backed Buhari in 2015 was detained for more than 100 days without given bail, under Buhari’s admin
He was finally released and rearrested in a courtroom under Buhari’s admin
His re-arrest comes barely 24 hours after he was released alongside his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare.
They were released at exactly 7:15 pm on Thursday, hours after Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had expressed displeasure over their continued detention by the agency.
Subsequently, Ojukwu ordered that the defendants be released within the next 24 hours and adjourned the case till Friday, December 6, for a report of compliance.
Sowore, a presidential candidate in the February 2019 elections, was arrested on August 3, just days to a planned protest tagged #revolutionnow against “bad governance” in the country.
Both he and his co-defendant are facing seven counts bordering on conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, money laundering and cybercrimes, among others.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail on October 4, in the sum of N100m and N50m respectively with two sureties in like sum.
They, however, were not released until yesterday and re-arrested today.
‘They Tried To Break Me In Prison’
Mr Sowore earlier on Friday before his re-arrest told Channels Television that the Department of State Service (DSS) has threatened to kill him.
He claimed that the DSS had told him that he will not walk out of their detention alive.
“It might be my only word on the record before they kill me; this is an attempt to assassinate me in court. They came with guns and they tried to shoot and they dragged me down in front of a judge after I have been granted bail.
“I said it that these are a bunch of lawless people and they were reluctant to respect the order of the court. Now they have shown it to the whole world.
“They tried to break me in prison, sent delegations to me, offering all kinds of things and I refused and they promised that I will not walk out of their detention alive and that is what they have come to implement today,” Sowore said.
Watch the video below…
‘This Has Never Happened Before In Nigeria’
Lead Counsel and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana in reaction to Sowore’s re-arrest described the situation as extremely embarrassing “because it has never happened in Nigeria where you enter a court to arrest anybody, even an alleged coup plotter.”
Falana in a phone conversation with Channels TV expressed dismay at the actions of the DSS attempting to arrest his client inside the courtroom.
Lead Counsel and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has criticised the Department of State Security Services (DSS) for rearresting his clients, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare at a Federal High Court in Abuja, barely 24 hours after their release from DSS custody.
Mr. Falana who spoke to Channels Television on Friday stressed that the DSS had said they were inviting the duo for questioning at their office to answer a few questions on fresh charges, but are yet to disclose what they are.
“The atmosphere was very rowdy, but I insisted that the arrest could not be carried out within the precinct of the court. He was going to be arrested outside the premises but there was a crowd that resisted the arrest, but I appealed to everybody and asked Sowore to jump into my car and so we drove to the office of the SSS because they said he will just answer a few questions, but now he is being detained.
“We are going to take steps under the law by asking for his release again since they are claiming this is a fresh arrest.
“Nobody has disclosed yet what his charges are; he couldn’t have committed any other offence because he has been detained for the past four months unless the SSS wants to tell the whole world that he committed this fresh offence while in their custody,” he stressed.
“This morning, the SSS lawyers and the lawyers of the Attorney-General reported to the court that the order of the court had been complied with and I confirmed because our clients were released last night.
“As soon as the court adjourned the matter to February next year, the SSS operatives pounced on the court, disrupted proceeding and then attempted to arrest our clients even in the web of the court, that was extremely embarrassing because it has never happened in Nigeria where you enter a court to arrest anybody, even an alleged coup plotter.”