Sahara Reporters publisher and convener of the #RevolutionNow protests, Omoyele Sowore has sued the Department of State Services (DSS) over the violation of his fundamental human rights. Among other reliefs sought, Sowore’s lawyer Femi Falana said in the suit marked FHC/ABJ /C51409/2019 dated November 20, 2019; that his client is seeking:
“An order of this court compelling the respondents to pay to the applicant the sum of N500,000, 000, 00 (Five hundred million naira) as general and aggravated damages for the illegal violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to life, dignity of his person, fair hearing, health, freedom of movement and freedom of association…An order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further violating the applicant’s fundamental rights in any manner whatsoever and however without lawful justification.”
Sowore was arrested on Saturday, August 3, 2019. He has been in continued detention despite multiple court orders to the DSS for his release. A Federal High Court, Abuja, had even threatened to send the DSS director, Yusuf Bichi to prison for refusing to release Sowore despite a court order.
“The court has been informed that even as at today, Thursday, September 26, you are yet to comply with the lawful order of the Federal High Court by refusing to release the applicant namely; Omoyele Sowore, in your custody. Take notice, that unless you obey the direction…to release the applicant in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/915/2019, forthwith you will be guilty of contempt of court and liable to be committed to prison,” the court said in a notice to DSS director.”
Another court had earlier ordered DSS to release Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) from its custody. The court, however, asked him to deposit his international passport with it before he is released. The judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, said the law provides for the freedom of all Nigerians regardless of economic or political status.
He ruled that there was no extant order allowing Sowore’s further detention before the court after the expiration of the 45 days it granted DSS to detain him. “The order of the court has expired. It has not been renewed and cannot be renewed in view of the motion ex-parte earlier withdrawn,” the judge said. “The liberty of all Nigerians high or low, poor or rich is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s for this end that I’m of the view that the defendant ought to be released forthwith.” While Sowore remained at DSS custody, the court directed it to comply with the order or be guilty of contempt of court.
When President Muhammadu Buhari was in London recently, Nigerians under the aegis of Take it Back Movement and “Free Sowore Now” converged in front of the official residence of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK to demand the release of Sowore, and other activists being held by the DSS.
Although it is not known if President Buhari was inside the premises, the protesters chanted solidarity songs and accused the president of trampling upon the rights of the detained activists and those of the judiciary and the generality of Nigerians. One protester mocked President Buhari, saying he does not “have d mental capacity to rule Nigeria.” They asked him to go home and stop enjoying the benefit of the NHS. One of the cheerleaders said, Nigeria has become a “laughing stock, we are ashamed.”
With voices cracking, they chanted “solidarity forever, solidarity forever,” and argued that Sowore and other activists only demanded for good governance and infrastructure and haven’t committed any crimes to be thrown behind bars by DSS. Midway into the demonstration, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, IHRC also joined on behalf of Sheik Zakzaky, the chairman of IHRC, Massoud Shadrjareh, berated the Nigerian government of still keeping Zakzaky in detention.
Sowore was arrested by the DSS Saturday, August 3 for planning a nationwide protest tagged #RevolutionNow. A Federal High Court in Abuja Tuesday, September 24 ordered Sowore’s immediate release. But the court order was declined by the Nigerian government’s secret police.
The Nigerian government filed additional charges against Sowore on Friday, September 20, a day before the completion of the initial 45 days the court allowed the DSS to keep him in custody. Sowore was charged on offences of treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plots to overthrow President Buhari.