Court grants Sowore, Bakare bail with stringent conditions

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*Sowore, Bakare

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Friday granted the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore bail in the sum of N100 million bail with two sureties in like sum.

The court also admitted the second defendant, Mr. Olawale Bakare (aka Mandate), to bail in the sum of N50 million.

Both men are standing trial for alleged treasonable felony and other offences

Justice Ojukwu said in her ruling that the offences which the defendants stand trial are ‘bailable.’

As part of the bail conditions, Sowore was asked to produce two sureties in like sum.

The sureties, she said, must be resident in Abuja and show evidence of tax payment for three years from 2014 to 2016 as well as deposit the original title documents of the assets with the court.

The judge also ordered Sowore to deposit N50 million in the account of the court as security.

As regard Bakare, the judge ordered him to produce one surety in the sum of N50 million and also show evidence of tax payment within a three-year period.

The judge also ordered Sowore not to travel out of Abuja and Bakare out of Oshogbo.

Both men were also barred from addressing any rally pending the conclusion of their trial.

Justice Ojukwu also ordered that the defendants be remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) pending the perfection of their bail conditions.

She adjourned the case till November 6,7, and 8 for commencement of trial.

Before the judge gave her ruling, Sowore’s counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, told the court that President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2003 after he lost election under the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) decided to stage protest all over the country and was never arrested or prosecuted.

Instead, Falana said the police disbanded the protest and briefed him (Buhari) to go to court to challenge the action.

According to Vanguard, Falana also stated that current leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), including president Buhari had in 2011, called for the kind of revolution that took place in Egypt, which he said was violent.

He noted that in the instant case, Sowore had specifically warned his followers not to engage in any form of violence but to protest peacefully.

Falana also noted that the only time some youths were arrested for using the term “Revolution” was in 1948 under the colonial era, noting however that they were not charged with treason but with sedition.

He argued that the federal government had failed to give any cogent reason Sowore should not be released on bail pending his trial.

He further argued that since he is presumed innocent by virtue of section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, the onus was on the government to establish why the defendant should remain in detention.

Falana contended that despite the allegation that Sowore planned to overthrow the government by staging a protest tagged RevolutionNow, the government had failed to adduce any evidence to substantiate the charge.

“We submit that the use of the word Revolution is not a criminal offence in Nigeria and it has never been criminalized. Hence, President Buhari called for a revolution and was never arrested or prosecuted,” he said.

On count-two of the charge that bordered on the allegation that Sowore insulted the president, Falana argued that under the law, no public office is allowed to use the machinery of the state to settle scores with the opponent.

“If the President feels offended by any statement made by the 1st defendant, the only option open to him is to sue for libel,” said Falana.

He said the Court of Appeal, in its judgement in 2008, upheld the right of Nigerians to protest against the government without firstly security police permit.

He further argued that the allegation of money laundering was not enough to deny the defendants bail, “when those that stole billions have all been granted bail”.

Furthermore, Falana argued that whereas Asari Dokubo admitted in his own statement that he was involved in blowing up of pipelines in the Niger Delta, Sowore never admitted that he committed any offence in his own statement.

Falana, therefore, urged the court to grant Sowore bail on self recognizance describing him as “a political leader.”

Besides, he drew the attention of the court to the fact that Sowore was earlier granted bail on the condition that he would deposit his international passport with the court registrar.

For its part, the federal government, through its legal team led by Mr. Hassan Liman, opposed the bail application saying there was the likelihood that the defendant would call for another revolution once he regained freedom.

It therefore urged the court to consider the severity of the allegation against the defendant.

It contended that Sowore who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election, posed flight risk because the charge contains a capital offence that would attract a life imprisonment upon conviction.

It told the court that Sowore was based in the United States of America, USA, and would jump bail if released from detention. More so, the government urged the court to take judicial notice of the case of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who it said escaped from the country after he was granted bail on a similar charge.

Relying on a Supreme Court decision in Asari Dokubo Vs FRN, which it said also involved treasonable felony charge, the prosecution argued that Sowore deserved to be denied bail, pointing out that on the day he was arraigned, he kept chanting and calling for a revolution while he was being led out of the court.

“This is a clear indication that once released on bail, he will go out there and engage in acts that will amount to a threat to national security” it stated.

Consequently, it urged the court to deny Sowore and Bakare and ordered their accelerated trial.

“Investigation has been concluded and we are willing and ready for accelerated hearing, if possible, on a day-to-day basis so that the 1st defendant can return to the USA”, the prosecution added.

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