Court Returns Sowore to DSS Custody

Omoyele Sowore

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday ordered the remand of detained Convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) till Friday October 4, 2019.

Sowore has been in custody of the DSS since August 3 when he was arrested in Lagos by men of the security operatives over alleged plan to cause the removal from office through an unlawful means the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Although Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court Abuja, had last week ordered his immediate release, the DSS had refused to comply.

However in a fresh suit, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu declined to grant an oral application for bail moved by counsel to Sowore.

Sowore and one Olawale Bakare were yesterday arraigned on a seven count criminal charge bordering on treasonable felony and money laundering.

Following their plea of not guilty, counsel to the prosecution, Hassan Liman (SAN), prayed the court for a short adjournment to commence trial of the defendants.

But Sowore’s counsel, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), who drew the attention of the court to the fact that Sowore has been in custody of the DSS since his arrest nearly two months ago, urged the court to order for the release of Sowore, adding that the prosecution having filed charges against him, has concluded investigation and as such has no need to keep him in their custody.

However the court refused the request on the grounds that Sowore is facing a different charge from the one for which Justice Taiwo had ordered his release.

Justice Ojukwu subsequently adjourned till October 4 to enable the defendants filed a formal application for their bail.

She also ordered that the defendants be remanded in the custody of the DSS, where Sowore has been since his arrest on August 3.

Earlier the judge ordered the defendants to enter their plea against the charge following their refusal to do so.

When the matter was called, counsel to the defendants had informed the court that the defendants were not ready to enter their plea.

According to Olumide-Fusika (SAN, since the charge was filed on September 20 against the defendants they have not had access to their lawyers who would have properly briefed them.

He said part of the process of arraignment is that the defendants should have access to their lawyers before they can take their plea.

The senior lawyer told the court that though the charge was served on the defendants on September 20, he only saw it this morning through one of the defendants, adding that Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana SAN, only called him on Sunday to ask him to stand in for him after he learnt from news reports that the defendants would be arraigned today.

Olumide speaking further submitted that the defendants are not ready to take their plea because the prosecution was yet to comply with the order of Justice Taiwo on the release of Sowore.

Olumide-Fusika therefore argued that a party who refused to obey an order of court has no right to come before the same court to request for anything.

He accordingly prayed the court not to listen to the prosecution until it has obeyed the order directing it to release Sowore.

However in his response, counsel to the federal government, Hassan Liman (SAN), said the refusal was not fair to the prosecution, having served the defendants with the charge since September 20.

He submitted that the prosecution was not guilty of disobedience of an order of court because the order was made pending the arraignment of the first defendant.

Liman while arguing that the order on Sowore’s release expired with his arraignment this morning, urged the court to order the defendants to take their plea.

In a short ruling Justice Ojukwu said there are evidence that the defendants were served on September 20 and they don’t need the guidance of a lawyer to take their plea, adding that it is not the lawyer that will answer for them.

On the issue of alleged disobedience to the order of Justice Taiwo for the release of Sowore, Justice Ojukwu held that the said order did not prohibit the arraignment of Sowore and accordingly called on the defendants to take their plea.

Though Sowore in his plea of not guilty on the charge of convening a protest on August 5, asked the court how he could have convened a protest on August 5 when he has been in the custody of the DSS since August 3.

On the charge of money laundering, Sowore also asked how it was possible for him to have transferred money from a United Bank for Africa (UBA) when he actually had no account with the bank.

Specifically, the defendants were accused of conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act by allegedly staging “a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019 aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The prosecution also accused them of committing the actual offence of treasonable felony in breach of Section, 4(1)(c) of the Criminal Code Act, by using the platform of Coalition for Revolution, in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, to stage the #RevolutionNow protest allegedly aimed at removing the President.

Sowore was further accused of cybercrime offences in violation of Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, by “knowingly” sending “messages by means of press interview granted on Arise Television network, which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Sowore was also accused of money laundering offences in breach of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.