A Nigerian rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said on Monday that the State Security Service has commenced plots to bring fresh charges against Omoyele Sowore in order to justify keeping him in custody.
"An attempt is being made to file a fresh charge on Tuesday so that there will be an excuse that 'we are arraigning them in court, hence we are unable to release them'," Mr Falana reportedly said on Channels Television Monday.
A federal judge signed release order for Mr Sowore on November 6, but the secret police has refused to comply. Rights activists said the SSS refusal to comply with the order effectively meant that Mr Sowore was being held in illegal captivity by state agents.
Mr Sowore was arrested in August for planning a nationwide protest he labelled 'RevolutionNow'. The Buhari administration said the planned demonstration was a treasonable act because it was aimed at fomenting a regime change.
Mr Sowore denied the allegations, saying his campaign was to mobilise teeming Nigerian youth to denounce poverty, insecurity and other national challenges assailing the country.
Following Mr Sowore's initial arraignment in September, he was granted bail by the trial judge. But the SSS, a historically repressive internal security outfit over which President Muhammadu Buhari wields absolute control, disregarded the order and filed new charges against the Sahara Reporters' publisher.
The new charges include treasonable felony and defamation of the president. Mr Sowore denied all the allegations in court. He was granted bail in October, but the stringent terms forced him to remain in custody for additional weeks.
He was finally able to meet the conditions on November 6 and the presiding judge signed a warrant for his release. The SSS acknowledged receipt of the court order and promised to comply.
Several days later, however, Mr Sowore remained incarcerated, raising fresh concerns from Nigerians who accused the SSS of being adamant to continue its ruthless legacy from the military era.
Mr Falana, who leads the legal team for Mr Sowore, said top agents at the SSS had been plotting to repeat what they did to Mr Sowore in September in order to continue denying him freedom.
"If you recall, that was what was done when Justice Taiwo Taiwo granted Sowore bail on September 24," Mr Falana was reported as saying by Sahara Reporters. "For a whole week, the order of the court was flouted. And then, of course, on September 30, he was arraigned together with Olawale Bakare."
"We are ready for them," he added.
The senior lawyer's comments came as rumours spread on social media that the SSS was hunting for fresh criminal charges to file against Mr Sowore since it had been boxed into a corner by the court order for his release.
Mr Falana did not mention the nature of the charges the SSS may file against Mr Sowore, but he said the attempt would be resisted until outstanding court orders had been obeyed by the agency.
Peter Afunanya, a spokesperson for the SSS, did not return calls seeking comment Monday night.