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The Young Female Nigerian Judge Who Defied DSS – You Cannot Have a Parallel Court, Justice Ojukwu Tells DSS Over Sowore’s Continued Detention » Super Wordpress

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has taken a swipe at the Department of State Services for constituting itself into a parallel court and flouting orders.

She lambasted the DSS for asking the sureties of detained human rights activists, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare, to come forward after she had signed a release warrant.

Ojukwu, who confronted DSS’ lawyer, Hassan Liman, during the commencement of trial in a case of treason brought against the two activists by the government, said that the court had the final say on the matter.

The State Security Service (SSS) on Thursday night released Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, 124 days after he was first arrested in Lagos.

Olawale Bakare, an activist who was arrested and charged alongside Mr Sowore, was also freed by the SSS on bail Thursday night.

Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, while confirming the development to PREMIUM TIMES, said the SSS also paid N100,000 fine to Mr Sowore as ordered by the judge. The judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on Wednesday imposed the fine on the lawyer representing the SSS in the matter for refusing to furnish Mr Sowore’s lawyers with statements of SSS’ witnesses.

Ms Ojukwu also gave the SSS 24 hours to comply with her release warrant issued for Messrs Sowore and Bakare on November 6. The SSS had stalled the release for a month, despite nationwide outrage and warning from the judge that its director-general, Yusuf Bichi, might be held in criminal contempt of court.

Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3 for planning #RevolutionNow, a series of protests to demand an end to corruption and demand better living conditions for all citizens.

The protests were planned to commence on August 5 across 21 towns and cities, with public awareness escalating as the day drew closer.

On August 5, after two days of leaving the country confused as to the agency responsible for the break-in at Mr Sowore’s apartment, the SSS convened a press briefing at its headquarters in Abuja.

The secret police’s spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, confirmed Mr Sowore was arrested for engaging in purported acts of subversion.

Mr Afunanya said Mr Sowore called for the overthrow of Mr Buhari’s government during campaigns ahead of the protests, an action the agency say is treasonable.

Yet, when asked whether the SSS had independently collected any intelligence that corroborated its suspicion of Mr Sowore’s alleged plots, Mr Afunanya said the activist’s public comments were enough to charge him for treason — an allegation that carries death penalty if proven in court.

The SSS subsequently obtained a court warrant to hold Mr Sowore in custody pending trial. Two weeks later, charges were filed at the Federal High Court that included tRegister ism, money laundering and defamation of character.

Mr Sowore’s associates and supporters again derided the charges as empty, saying it was poorly filed and had no compelling evidence to be upheld in court.

In particular, the claim that Mr Sowore committed money laundering was ridiculed by Inibehe Effiong, a rights activist and ally of Mr Sowore, who said Mr Sowore’s transfer of funds between two Sahara Reporters’ accounts through the formal banking channels cannot be interpreted as money laundering.

 

Mr Effiong also said Mr Sowore’s call for revolution was within his rights to speech, saying that at no time did he specifically demand an overthrow of Mr Buhari.

On August 5, after two days of leaving the country confused as to the agency responsible for the break-in at Mr Sowore’s apartment, the SSS convened a press briefing at its headquarters in Abuja.

The secret police’s spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, confirmed Mr Sowore was arrested for engaging in purported acts of subversion.

Mr Afunanya said Mr Sowore called for the overthrow of Mr Buhari’s government during campaigns ahead of the protests, an action the agency say is treasonable.

Yet, when asked whether the SSS had independently collected any intelligence that corroborated its suspicion of Mr Sowore’s alleged plots, Mr Afunanya said the activist’s public comments were enough to charge him for treason — an allegation that carries death penalty if proven in court.

The SSS subsequently obtained a court warrant to hold Mr Sowore in custody pending trial. Two weeks later, charges were filed at the Federal High Court that included tRegister ism, money laundering and defamation of character.

The SSS action has continued to anger the public, with Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, weighing in. Lawyers argued that the SSS has no business with the sureties because they had been verified by the court and found competent to secure Mr Sowore’s release.

The judge also did not include a clause that required the SSS to demand to see the sureties as a precondition for releasing the accused.

The action was largely seen as a display of arrogance because the SSS has no powers to review the decision of a federal court.

On November 30, PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Buhari’s emissaries had met with Mr Sowore in detention to dialogue with him about his continued detention. Sources familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES the president’s emissaries, which included Isa Funtua, Nduka Obaigbena, Sam Amuka, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, had tried to get Mr Sowore to back down on his agitation in order to regain freedom.

Mr Sowore, however, rejected the offer, saying it was a selfish and extrajudicial plot to scuttle his people-oriented campaign.

When Mr Sowore’s case came up for hearing on December 5, a furious Ms Ojukwu lampooned the SSS for disregarding her order for Messrs Sowore and Bakare to be released on bail. She then gave the SSS 24 hours to release the activists and imposed a penalty of N100,000 on the secret’s police lawyer for hiding statements of witnesses.

The SSS complied with the order hours later, and Mr Sowore first checked in at a famous hotel in Abuja. It was unclear how the activist would engage the public in the coming days, his bail terms prohibited him from traveling out of Abuja or engaging in public activities.

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