A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu has ordered the remand of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) and convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) pending the hearing and termination of his bail application on Thursday, October 3.
Also remanded alongside Sowore was his co-defendant, Mr. Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate).
Sowore and Bakare are charged with treasonable felony and other sundry offences preferred against him by the federal government.
It would be recalled that Sowore was arrested on August 3 ahead of his August 5 planned protests against the federal government.
On September 24, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja granted Sowore bail and ordered his immediate release from the DSS custody.
However, he gave the detainee 48 hours to fulfill the bail conditions which included depositing his international passport with the court.
By Wednesday, September 25, the detainee had fulfilled all the bail conditions but the secret police held on to him.
Sowore was arraigned by the Nigerian government on seven charges bordering on an alleged conspiracy to commit treason, money laundering, and insulting the President, among others.
During the sitting on Monday the prosecutor, Hassan Liman, on behalf of the federal government, while reading out the seven-count charge alleged that Sowore transferred some “illicit funds”.
“That you Omoyele Sowore on April 2019 at Lagos and Abuja commit an offence by transferring the sum of $19,975 from your UBA account credited by City Bank, USA into a Sahara Bank Account with the aim of concealing the origin of the funds,” Liman said.
Liman said Sowore again transferred “$20,475 dollars from his UBA account credited by Sahara Reporters Media Group in New York with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the funds.”
“That you Omoyele Sowore on the 27th of June did commit an offence by transferring the sum of $16,967 credited by Sahara Media Group USA with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the funds,” he said.
Liman for the seventh charge said, “That you Omoyele Sowore on 16th July at Lagos and Abuja committed an offence by transferring the sum of $16,975 from your account in USA with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the funds.”
At the trial, the judge ordered Sowore and Bakare to enter their plea to the charges.
Sowore who addressed the court through his lawyer, Mr. Olumide Fusaki said he was not duly served with a copy of the charge against him, insisting that he was denied access to his lawyers.
He decried what he termed as an act of lawlessness by the security agency which he said refused to obey the directive of the same court that granted it leave to detain him for 45 days.
Fusika told the court that Sowore’s lead counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, got to know about the arraignment from reports in the newspaper, despite the fact that he was at the office of the DSS till 10pm on Sunday.
For his part, Liman told the court that the defendants were duly served with the charge on September 20.
Liman argued that the high court only ordered that Sowore should be released until his arraignment.
He argued that the release order had elapsed since the defendants have been brought before the court for arraignment.
Besides, he contended that the charge was already served on the defendants before the court ordered Sowore’s release on September 24.
In a short ruling, Justice Ojukwu held that it was not in doubt that the defendants were served with the charge.
The judge noted that no reference was made to any court order stopping the defendants from taking their plea to the criminal charge.
“I see no breach of any of the tenets of justice in the present circumstance. What is before this court is a criminal matter.
“I am of the view that there is no impediment to arraignment of the defendants. The defendants are therefore called-up to enter their plea,” she said.
Consequently, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge and prayed the court for bail.
The prosecution however prayed the court to remand them in custody pending trial, adding that investigation had been concluded.
The defence lawyer argued that there was no reason for the defendants to remain in custody since investigation is concluded.
He further drew attention of the court that Sowore had been in detention since August 3 and pleaded that he should be allowed to go home on the bail terms the court earlier granted him.
Responding, the judge ordered the remand of the accused in the DSS custody and adjourned hearing in the bail application to October 3.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association has condemned the continuous detention of Sowore in the DSS custody despite earlier pronouncement by the court.
In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, the Bar described as “unacceptable” the impunity which the DSS has exhibited in the Sowore saga.
The statement reads in part: “The Nigerian Bar Association has become aware of the unfortunate and flagrant disobedience of the order of Hon. Mr. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court sitting at Abuja directing the release on bail of Citizen Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Security Service of Nigeria on September 24, 2019, of which the bail terms have long been perfected by the detainee’s counsel.
“The NBA recalls that the DSS found it convenient to approach the Federal High Court in ensuring the detention of Omoyele Sowore for more than 50 days but has since comfortably refused to comply with the order of the same Court directing the release of Citizen Omoyele Sowore.
“This is unacceptable in a country where there are laws and a nation which Head of State recently professed at the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly to respect the human rights of citizens.”
“The DSS 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.
“The continued detention of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) in spite of various court orders readily comes to mind.
“The NBA therefore, condemns the continued detention of citizen Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Security, as same amounts to violation of his constitutional rights to personal liberty and that 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 1(1) of the Constitution (afore-referred) the Nigerian “Constitution is supreme and shall have a binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The NBA therefore, calls for the immediate release of Citizen Omoyele Sowore in terms of the order of the Federal High Court made on the 24th September 2019, and other Nigerians who have been languishing in DSS detention centres without any charge.”
For his part, Lagos lawyer and human rights campaigner, Mr. Femi Falana, slammed the DSS for its resolve to report Justice Taiwo to the National judicial Commission (NJC) over the Sowore affair.
Falana was reacting to a newspaper report that the DSS had finalized plans to report the judge to the NJC for granting Sowore bail.
In a statement, Falana contended 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.”
“….The State Security Service (SSS) had concluded plans to report Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council for granting bail to Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who has been charged with a purported capital offence.
The Nation (Newspaper) claimed that according to an unnamed government source ‘Sowore’s bail is likely to bring trouble for that judge. A report has been prepared to report him to NJC in view of the fact that as far as this country, it is known that a person charged for treasonable felony has no bail option.
“So, the security and intelligence community in the country is shocked by the judgement. And there is a consensus that the judgement should not only be appealed, but that the NJC should be petitioned about the conduct and abuse of power by the judge.
“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.
“However, in a desperate bid to divert public attention from the contemptuous conduct of the SSS the federal government has hurriedly pressurised the Federal High Court to assign the case for the arraignment of Mr. Sowore.
“From the information at our disposal, the report was designed by The Nation to blackmail and intimidate the judges of the Federal High Court with respect to the trial of Mr. 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.
“But in this case, Mr. Sowore has not been charged with a capital offence. Therefore, contrary to the highly misleading position of 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.
“Having regards 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 Mr. Sowore’s detention for 45 days.
“We had wanted to show that Mr. Sowore did not engage in any terrorist activity to warrant his incarceration. But the order for the 45-day detention of Mr. Sowore was allowed to expire by efflux ion of time. Since Mr. Sowore was eventually not charged with terrorism it means that the order to detain him for 45 days was obtained by fraud and misrepresentation of facts on the part of the SSS.
“In urging Nigerians to disregard the dubious report it ought to be pointed out that Justice Taiwo has not been accused of any act of judicial misconduct in ordering the conditional release of Mr. Sowore from unlawful custody.
“After all, it was the SSS counsel, Mr. Godwin Agbadua who withdrew his fresh motion ex-parte motion for an order to further detain him for 20 days.
“Consequently, Justice Taiwo granted our application for Mr. Sowore’s release but made it conditional as his Lordship took judicial notice of the 3-count charge of insulting President Buhari, money laundering and treasonable felony pending against him in the court.
“To that extent, the NJC has no power to sanction a judicial officer for exercising his/her discretion judicially and judicially 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.
“Finally, instead of joining the global campaign for the release of Mr. Sowore from illegal custody as ordered by the Federal High Court, …The Nation newspaper has colluded with the forces of reaction to intimidate the judiciary.
“But it is a mission that is bound to fail as no dictator has ever succeeded in cowing the courts and the Nigerian people to submission.”
Also reacting, another a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Mike Ozekhome said the plan by the DSS to report the judge to the NJC “is extremely silly and idiotic for anyone, least unexpectedly of all, the DSS, to petition against Justice Taiwo Taiwo before the NJC, for granting bail to Sowore.”
“Why didn’t the same DSS petition against the courageous Judge when he used his same undoubted discretion to order Sowore’s detention for 45 days in the first instance? This government is one given to cheap duplicity, irreconcilable contradictions and barefaced impunity. It dances on governance principles like a yoyo!
“How can you petition against a judge for exercising his discretion judicially and judiciously as permitted him by law? The Judge was right in his order. Sowore was not charged with treason which carries the death penalty under sections 37 and 38 of the Criminal Code.
“He was charged with treasonable felony which is punishable with life imprisonment under sections 40-49 of the same Criminal Code. Even then, while section 161 permits a judge to grant bail to a person accused of a capital offence in cases of exceptional circumstances, section 162 allows such bail more easily for felonious but non-capital except where certain conditions are shown to exist.
“None if these extreme circumstances existed to have prevented Justice Taiwo from granting Sowore bail. The only option open to the DSS if dissatisfied with Justice Taiwo’s judgement is to first obey the court order and then appeal against it.
“It has no right or power to choose, whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily, what order to obey and which to disobey. Why didn’t the same DSS disobey an earlier order made by the same Justice Taiwo himself to keep Sowore in its gulag for 45 days in the first instance?
“Oh, I know why: the order favoured the government. At that stage, the Judge was incorruptible. For God’s sake, can someone please help me nudge this vindictive and intolerant government to the inescapable reality that we are operating a constitutional democracy driven by adherence to rule of law, observance of human rights and obedience to court orders?
“Can’t this government come to terms that we are not in a military junta, or a totalitarian, absolutist and fascist state? he said in a statement.
Also, Ozekhome described the DSS’ plan to report the judge as not only “extremely silly and idiotic for anyone, least unexpectedly of all, the DSS, to petition against Justice Taiwo Taiwo before the NJC, for granting bail to Sowore.”
Ozekhome went on: Why didn’t the same DSS petition against the courageous judge when he used his same undoubted discretion to order Sowore’s detention for 45 days in the first instance?
“This government is one given to cheap duplicity, irreconcilable contradictions and barefaced impunity. It dances on governance principles like a yoyo! How can you petition against a judge for exercising his discretion judicially and judiciously as permitted him by law?
“The judge was right in his order. Sowore was not charged with treason which carries the death penalty under Sections 37 and 38 of the Criminal Code.
He was charged with treasonable felony which is punishable with life imprisonment under Sections 40 to 49 of the same Criminal Code.
“Even then, while Section 161 permits a judge to grant bail to a person accused of a capital offence in cases of exceptional circumstances, Section 162 allows such bail more easily for felonious but non-capital except where certain conditions are shown to exist.”
Also remanded alongside Sowore was Mr. Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate).
Additional reports from ThisDay, Vanguard