There was a lot of drama on Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja as the Department of State Services (DSS) rearrested Revolution Now Convener, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, barely 24 hours after they were released from custody.
They were rearrested on the grounds on fresh charges being filed against them, it was gathered.
Sowore alleged an attempt was made on his life as men of the DSS put him in a chokehold.
Sowore and Bakare’s appearance in court on Friday was a resumption of their trial over charges of treasonable felony for organizing the Revolution Now protest, which the government saw as an attempt to disrupt peace in the country.
He was arrested on August 3, 2019 and despite a federal high court order for them to be released on bail, the DSS, who acknowledged receipt of the order early November, had still kept them in custody, their reason being that the appropriate sureties had not come for them.
But following an order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, December 5, 2019 that the duo released under 24 hours and a cost of N100, 000 awarded against the DSS, they were released at about 5pm on the same day.
At the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday morning, in anticipation of the continuation of the trial, two groups Concerned Mothers and Guardians of Democracy and Development Initiative protesting for and against Sowore respectively were at the gate as dozens of armed policemen tried to maintain order.
There was heavy presence of armed men DSS personnel in the premises of the court.
As the trial resumed, lead counsel for the prosecution, Hassan Limman SAN, said following the order of the previous day, they had released Sowore and Bakare from their custody as well as paid the cost of N100, 000 awarded against them to the defendants through one of their counsels, Marshall Abubakar.
He had said that by consensus with counsel to the defendants, they had agreed that the matter be adjourned subject to the convenience of the court to 11th, 12th and 13th of February 2020 for definite hearing.
“Between now and then, what is left, the statement of the witnesses, which we are yet to furnish the defendants, we ensure we serve them within a reasonable time because most of the witnesses are out on official duties,” he had said.
Counsel to the defendants Femi Falana SAN who confirmed the release of his clients as well receipt of the money, hoped that the defendants would be allowed to enjoy their freedom as he learnt that new charges were being filed against them.
He agreed to the dates for adjournment.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had lauded the DSS saying it was obvious they have demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law.
“No one is above the law. Those who are called to govern citizens in the discharge what is considered to be their statutory duties must at all times conform with the rule of law. That is the path to greatness. The DSS has earned themselves the respect of the Nigerian citizens and all the arms of government,” she had said.
She went ahead to adjourn to the 11th, 12th and 13th of February for definite hearing.
The session was barely over when pandemonium broke out in the court when operatives of the DSS attempted to arrest Sowore and Bakare as they were about to leave the courtroom.
The attempt to seize Sowore was resisted by his supporters in the court who dared the gun-toting security agents as they tried to drag the duo away.
Sounds of guns cocking and people shouting rent the air in the ensuing confusion as Sowore was dragged from the hold of the DSS operatives back into the courtroom by his supporters.
Supporters could be heard shouting, “if you want to shoot, shoot.”
The hostile security agents attempted to bar journalists from entering the court to witness the development. Some journalists were allegedly manhandled it was gathered.
Sowore again said they were unaware of any fresh charges and the attempt was a sign of a tyranny of the Federal Government.
“We had concluded the process and when we were leaving, one of the SSS officers came to me and said we have to come with them and I said we are still in court and we have been granted bail. It is not even 24 hours yet. Why can’t you wait and of course, all hell was let loose. They pulled out their guns within the courts, put me in a chokehold and tried to kill me inside the court. If it was not for this Nigerians who were surrounding me, I would probably be dead. We are not aware of why they are arresting us again. I left them yesterday. I have been there for 126 days, they did not tell me if they were new charges, because these charges that they filed, they could not sustain it. We have been hearing that they did not want me to come out but for Nigerians, who massively engaged within and outside the social media circle to ensure justice is done.
“What people are saying is that we have a right to live in this country. We have a right to speak freely and associate and we have demonstrated that by coming to court. The claim that I would run away if I was granted bail, I was granted bail last night and I came here voluntarily accompanied by my lawyer. When we even got outside, they had their own protesters and I said that is the beauty of democracy.
“Nigerians at this point it is important to let you know that there is no reason to be afraid. The most powerful tool in the hands of oppressors is fear mongering. To scare people to thinking, if we do this to Sowore, nobody else would ever challenge government. I am not new to this. I was a student leader in the 90s. I fought against the military rule. I gave fought against successive military and civilian leaders in this country who have tried to trample on the rights and violate the integrity and dignity of our people and even their own constitution. The constitution they drafted ad swore to uphold. I have never been afraid.
“This would require a lot of sacrifices. We have shown the other side of government you didn’t know that these guys have no pretension for democracy or respect for human rights. And I am speaking to the rest of the world as well that it is time to focus on Nigeria. Nigeria has slipped back into total fascism and we have a tyrannical regime fully entrenched. Even under the military nobody ever entered a courtroom and tried to shoot a suspect and scare a judge. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that it is happening at the Federal High Court level.
“Lawlessness we have tolerated over time that has led us to the abyss that we are in today. Someone has to do it and I have volunteered to do it. And many of you have volunteered to join me and I am inspired by all of you. The heroes of today’s temporary relief that I have to speak with you are the men surrounding me, some of them lawyers, who took of their gowns and wigs and said no tyranny inside the sacred confines of a federal high court. So that is the latest for now. I remain unshaken, unbroken and unbowed,” Sowore said.
After a stand-off of almost two hours, Sowore and Bakare were led out of the courtroom by his lawyers led by Falana, as well as his supporters downstairs to the entrance of the court, where armed DSS personnel were waiting.
Falana, who demanded to know the leader of the DSS team, told them they could not arrest within the premises of the court.
They moved towards the gate the court, and after some arguments, Sowore and Bakare were eventually taken to the DSS facility in Falana’s car driven by a DSS personnel and escorted by several other DSS trucks.
Speaking on the development, Falana said when he saw the anti-Sowore protesters allegedly sponsored by the government, he carried out some investigation and while in court, got information that a new charge was going to be filed and that the Director of the State Security Service had allegedly ordered that Mr Sowore be abducted in the premises of the court.
“You will recall the court that the order was obeyed yesterday and that there are new moves to file a new charge. The prosecution team said in the open court that no such information was available to them, but here we are now, the courts is being prevented from carrying out its normal duty because there was a move to forcefully take them away from the court. As officers of the court, we are going to take appropriate steps to challenge the illegal detention of our clients by the DSS.
“I can assure you what is happening now would not go away unchallenged. We either run this country on the platform of the rule of law or we resort to gangsterism, which is what is going on, but we are not going to allow it because we fought against military dictators, including General Muhammadu Buhari and defeated all of them. Under a democratically elected government, we are not going to allow anybody no matter how highly placed to treat the rule of law with disdain. Having complied with the order of court, what is required is for the DSS to allow our clients to enjoy their limited freedom because both of them have been restricted to Abuja and Osogbo respectively. So there is no basis for this fascist approach,” he said.
A text message sent to the Public Relations Officer of the National Headquarters of the DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya, for his reaction to the development was not replied at the time of filing this report.
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