Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Department of State Service (DSS) yesterday evening surrendered to the superiority of court, and released the detained convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant, Mr. Olawale Bakare.
The security agency complied with the directive few hours after the court gave them 24 hours to release Sowore and Bakare, who had been in their custody despite their release on bail.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja had Thursday morning expressed great reservation over the refusal of the DSS to release Sowore and Bakare.
The judge subsequently ordered that the defendants be released within the next 24 hours and adjourned to Friday November 6 for report of compliance.
However, before the expiration of the order, it was confirmed that the defendants had been released.
Their lawyer, Femi Falana SAN yesterday evening confirmed to THISDAY that Sowore and Bakare had been released and were released to him.
According to a lawyer in Falana’s chambers, Mr. Marshal Abubakar, the defendants were released at 7.15 pm Thursday evening.
It would be recalled that DSS lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman SAN, while speaking with newsmen shortly after the court session Thursday morning had assured that his client would comply with the order of the court.
He said: “I want to say once again that the DSS has not at any time refused or failed to comply with the court order. What we have done today is to go a step further to say that the DSS does no longer want Mr. Sowore in their custody. That is what we are saying.
“Definitely when somebody is granted bail he will be released to the main person that has served as his surety. Nobody, I repeat has gone to the DSS to take Mr. Sowore and co. on bail.
“The court has made an order to release them forthwith. But the DSS has not at anytime, refused to comply with court order. And that is why the DSS filed an application today that they no longer want them in their custody.
“The court has adjournded till tomorrow for us to report whether or not that order has been complied with. But I still say there has not been any violation of court order. He will be released definitely.
“In terms of court order and the conditions of bail, when you come tomorrow you will know if that has been complied with. I still say there has not been any violation of court order.”
Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters and his co-defendant are facing a seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, money laundering and cybercrimes amongst others.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail on October 4, in the sum of N100m and N50m respectively with two sureties in like sum.
For Sowore, one of the sureties according to the judge, must deposit the sum of N50 million in cash as security for the bail.
However, the court had two weeks later varied the bail conditions following a request to that effect.
Justice Ojukwu had signed the release of the bail of the defendants after they met the bail conditions.
But the DSS had refused to released the defendants even after evidence that they had met the conditions attached to the bail.
However, at the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, Justice Ojukwu was infuriated that her order on the release of the defendants was yet to be obeyed.
Counsel to the defendants, Falana, had complained to the court that its order for the release of documents and the defendants who have been granted bail and have met the attached conditions has not been complied with by the prosecution.
Falana, who told Justice Ojukwu that one month after the court ordered service of documents to be tendered on the defence, the prosecution only served the defence the documents yesterday and he would be needing time to study the documents as well as watch the attached videos with the defendants.
He also prayed the court to direct the prosecution to serve the full statements of all listed witnesses instead of a summary statement to aid their defence.
The defendants lawyer further told the court that he was having difficulty gaining access to his client who is still in custody of the prosecution despite meeting his bail conditions.
At this instant, Justice Ojukwu called on the prosecution witness to explain why Sowore and Bakare were still in their custody.
Responding, prosecution counsel, Liman, admitted that the order was served on the prosecution but the defendants were yet to be released because the DSS had asked their sureties to come for identification.
Interjecting, Justice Ojukwu asked the prosecution counsel whether that request was part of the court’s order.
She said: “Is that part of the order? Is there a parallel court here? Who is directing that? Is there another court elsewhere?”
Justice Ojukwu expressed pain that the DSS could flout her orders even after she took time to ensure that the bail conditions were met.
In a short ruling, the judge ordered that the defendants be released within the next 24 hours and adjourned till today for report of compliance.
On the request for adjournment by Sowore’s lawyer for time to study the documents and videos tendered as evidence against the plaintiff, Justice Ojukwu held that because the adjournment was created by the prosecution, she was inclined to award cost against it.
She recalled that while adjourning the matter on November, she had ordered that the prosecution should serve all necessary documents it would be tendering on the defence before the commencement of trial yesterday.
“Since the last time, you did not deem it necessary to serve,” she said while refusing Liman’s claim that the late service was due to administrative bottleneck.
Justice Ojukwu subsequently awarded a cost of N100,000 against the prosecution, adding that trial would only go on upon payment of the N100,000 fine.
The DSS had on August 3, 2019 arrested Sowore in Lagos for calling for a revolution through a protest scheduled to hold on August 5, while Bakare was arrested in Osogbo on October 5.
Since their arrest, they have remained in the custody of the DSS.