The Department of State Services (DSS) has complied with the order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, directing it to release the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare within 24 hours. Both men were released Thursday night, a few hours after the judge fined DSS N100,000 for disobeying her earlier orders demanding their release on bail after the defendants met the bail conditions.
Notwithstanding the court order, the DSS insisted that Sowore and Bakare would not be released until their sureties appear before the agency for appropriate profiling. Justice Ojukwu took umbrage at this untenable DSS position; wondering why a legitimate court order would not be obeyed, and asked if the DSS had constituted itself as a parallel court to the main court.
“This matter cannot go on,” Justice Ojukwu charged. “There is no way it can go on, and the adjournment is at your instance,” she noted at the resumed hearing, after counsel to the defendants, Femi Falana (SAN), had complained to the court that its order as regards release of documents and the defendants who had been granted bail had not been complied with by the prosecution.
To which end, the court awarded N100,000 against the prosecution for failing to comply with court orders requesting the release of the defendants and for not serving the defense counsel with necessary documents early enough. The penalty, Justice Ojukwu said, must be paid to the defendants before the commencement of trial. She held that because the adjournment was created by the prosecution she was inclined to award cost against the prosecution, stating that trial would only go on upon payment of the N100,000 fine. The judge consequently adjourned hearing till today, Friday.
Sowore has been in DSS detention for 124 days. He was arrested by the DSS on Saturday, August 3 for planning nationwide protests tagged #RevolutionNow. 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’s lawyer Falana in an earlier affidavit told the court “that the applicant (Sowore) herein has never been charged with any criminal offence whatsoever” and should be granted bail. He explained “that the Nigeria police also conducted investigation on the matter and made its findings public” and did not incriminate Sowore as alleged. Two previous bail applications challenging his detention by DSS were rejected by the court.
Sowore was charged on offences of treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plots to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari.