Alex Enumah in Abuja
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN has taken over the prosecution of Omoyele Sowore in the charge of treasonable felony against him at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The move according to the AGF, demonstrates government’s commitment to respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens.
In reaction, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), asked Malami, to withdraw the pending criminal charges against his clients – Sowore and Olawale Bakare, insisting that there was no evidence to get the ‘RevolutonNow’ protests conveners convicted.
Sowore alongside Bakare are standing trial on alleged treasonable felony, money laundering amongst other charges.
They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of N100m and N30m respectively.
However, Sowore was re-arrested in the Federal High Court Abuja, on December 6, and this attracted strong condemnation against the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.
A statement by the Special Assistant, Media and Public Relation, Office of the AGF, Dr. Umar Gwandu, yesterday, said further that the decision to take over the prosecution of Sowore was also to ensure the speedy dispensation of justice in the case.
The statement reads: “Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said that the federal government is committed to respecting the sanctity of the rule of law, protecting the virtues of human rights and ensuring speedy dispensation of justice.
“As part of deliberate efforts to probe emerging issues related to the recent imbroglio related to Omoyele Sowore’s case and for speedy dispensation of justice, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has requested that the case file in respect of the charge pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja be forwarded to his office.”
The request for the transfer of the case from the DSS to the AGF, Gwandu said, was contained in a letter dated 11th December, 2019 and addressed to the Director General of the Department of State Services, National Headquarters Abuja.
The Solicitor General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, SAN, who signed the letter refereed to a letter from the DSS office on 9th September, 2019.
According to the letter, “The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon a further review of the case has directed the immediate takeover of the prosecution of all charges in respect of Omoyole Sowore by the Federal Ministry of Justice in line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) and 174 (1) (a-c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)”.
According to the statement, the letter requested the DSS Director to “promptly forward all the case files” in respect of Omoyele Sowore to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”
The DSS had on December 6 invaded the courtroom in its bid to re-arrest Sowore, less than 24 hours after his was released from detention, following a bail, granted him by the court.
The security operatives had swooped on Sowore just as he was stepping out of the court after his case was adjourned till February 11 next year.
Efforts by the DSS to immediately seize him was unsuccessful as Sowore, with the aid of some of his supporters, managed to run back into the court room where he took refuge for nearly an hour before a truce was reached between his lawyer and the DSS.
However, the DSS denied the invasion, saying it re-arrested Sowore outside the precinct of the court.
The agency also got the backing of the presidency, which said it had powers to deal with security threats.
The action of the DSS was widely condemned both within and outside the country as it was seen as a desecration of the temple of justice and flagrant disobedience of court orders and the rule of law.
Withdraw Charges against Sowore, Bakare now, Falana tells Malami
Meanwhile, Sowore’s lawyer, Falana friday asked Malami to withdraw pending criminal charges against his clients – Sowore and Bakare, insisting that that there was no evidence to get the ‘RevolutonNow’ protests conveners convicted.
He was reacting to the takeover of the Sowore case by the AGF.
Falana however, noted that despite the directive by the AGF for the DSS to hands off the case, the DSS was still bent on fishing for evidence to file fresh charges against his clients.
He stated: “Convinced that the pending case would collapse like a pack of cards, the SSS is currently fishing for evidence to nail Sowore. In spite of the directive of the AGF to hands over the case, the SSS subjected Sowore to a four-hour interrogation friday (December 12, 2019).
“The entire interrogation pertained to Sowore’s alleged links with the proscribed Boko Haram sect, IPOB, and IMN, which he vehemently denied. At Sowore’s instance, a member of the legal defence team, Mr. Abubakar Marshal, witnessed the marathon interrogation. The plan is to charge Sowore with terrorism as a follow-up to the unsubstantiated allegations of a presidential media aide.
“In the light of the foregoing, we urge the AGF to file a nolle prosequi motion to end the macabre dance which has exposed the country to avoidable embarrassment.”
He insisted that the action the AGF had so far taken on the prosecution of Sowore and his co-defendant was not a takeover “because it was the AGF that filed the case on September 20, 2019, and farmed it out to Dr. Hassan Liman, SAN”.