Nigeria: Why Sowore Has Not Been Freed Despite Court Order - Lawyer

Omoyele Sowore
25 September 2019

A lawyer representing the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, has given a reason why Mr Sowore is yet to be free, despite being granted bail by a court on Tuesday.

Mr Sowore's lawyer, Samuel Ogala, explained during a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Wednesday morning that Mr Sowore is expected to be released on Wednesday, after the defence team signs some legal documents.

"Some documents have to first be signed. We have obtained the court order, so today the necessary documents would be signed before his release," said Mr Ogala, a lawyer in Femi Falana's chambers.

The order for Sowore's release

PREMIUM TIMES reported how a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Taiwo Taiwo, Tuesday ordered the immediate release of Mr Sowore after the prosecution informed the court of its completion of investigations into the allegations against the activist.

The judge said Mr Sowore's lead counsel, Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, would be responsible for ensuring he appears in court for trial.

"It is therefore ordered that the respondent be released forthwith. But he must deposit his international passport with this court within 48 hours of this order.

"Further, the respondent shall be released to Femi Falana forthwith by the applicant, that is the State Security Service (SSS).

"Femi Falana shall ensure that the respondent is produced for his formal arraignment whenever he or the respondent is notified," Mr Taiwo said according to the court papers seen by PREMIUM TIMES.

Many Nigerians have since expressed doubt that the SSS and the Buhari adinstration would obey the court order, following the disobedience of earlier ones granted ex-National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.

Sowore's detention order

Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3 by the SSS for planning a revolutionary protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow.

The protest took place on August 5, amidst heavy clampdown of protesters and journalists by security agents.

The SSS accused Mr Sowore of plotting to cause chaos and overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari with the protest. The agency obtained an order for his initial detention for a few days.

At the expiration of that order, the SSS again obtained another directive to detain Mr Sowore for an additional 45 days.

That order, given on August 8, elapsed on September 21.

On September 20, the Nigerian government filed a seven-count charge against Mr Sowore and a co-accused, Olawale Bakare.

They were accused of cyberstalking, treasonable felony, fraud and insulting the president in a set of charges that mostly involved Mr Sowore. Mr Bakare's name appeared only in count one according to the charge sheet.

Mr Sowore was also accused of disseminating information which the prosecution tagged "insulting, causing hatred and enmity" against the person of President Buhari.

Arguments on Sowore's bail

On Tuesday, the government withdrew an application seeking the further detention of Mr Sowore due to the facts contained in its information suggesting an end to the investigation.

Despite the withdrawal, the prosecution lawyer, G. A. Agbadua, asked the court to "determine in the interest of national security" whether Mr Sowore ought to be released.

Mr Agbadua told the court that the allegations against Mr Sowore attracted a capital punishment, a claim that was refuted by Mr Falana.

Mr Falana also urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that there was no legal basis for the detention of Mr Sowore and added that previous court decisions had allowed the bail of persons accused of treasonable felony including the late politician, Moshood Abiola.

Mr Falana also reminded Mr Taiwo of a time in the past when he (Falana) was defended by Mr Taiwo following the same allegation of treasonable felony while the judge was still a private legal practitioner. Mr Falana said they were granted bail at that time without stress by the court.

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