Judge Recuses Self from Sowore’s Suit

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Sowore
Omoyele Sowore

By Alex Enumah in Abuja

Hope that detained convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, would regain freedom before Christmas was on Monday dashed following the refusal of Justice Ahmed Mohammed to take his motion challenging his continued detention by the Department of State Service (DSS).

Sowore had on December 15 dragged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN and the Director General of the DSS Yusuf Bichi before the Federal High Court Abuja over his rearrest and continued detention by the federal government.

He also filed an exparte application seeking an order of the court to compel the DSS to immediately and unconditionally release him from detention.

On December 17, shortly after the suit was mentioned, trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered service of court process on the defendants and adjourned to December 23 for hearing of the motion.

However, there was a new development on Monday December 23, when a new judge in person of Justice Ahmed Mohammed took over the matter.

Justice Mohammed is one of the vacation Judges at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, which was saddled with the responsibility of hearing the suit bordering on alleged breach of the fundamental rights of Sowore.

Sowore was rearrested on December 6, within the premises of the Federal High Court Abuja, by operatives of the DSS, barely few hours after he regained freedom from a four month detention by the same DSS and is still in custody as at the time of filing this report.

However, when the matter was called on Monday, Justice Mohammed declined to entertain the motion on grounds of likelihood of bias.

According to the judge, he could not go on with the matter because Sowore’s media outfit, SaharaReporters had sometimes in 2016 accused him of being a bribe taker.

Justice Mohammed held that irrespective of where justice would go at the end of the day, he would be accused of bias, adding that the best thing is for him to return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge.

He consequently recused himself from the suit.

Responding, Sowore’s lawyer, Chief Femi Falana SAN, consented with the view of the judge to step aside from hearing the matter.

Sowore and one Olawale Bakare are standing trial on a 16 count charge bordering on treasonable felony, money laundering amongst others.

They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of N100m and N30m respectively.

The DSS had initially refused to release them on bail even after they met their bail application, until Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu issued a 24 hours order for their release.

However, Sowore was rearrested on December 6, shortly after he was released on bail by the DSS over a yet to be disclosed offence.

In a three-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion exparte, the applicant prayed the court for an order for the production of the applicant for an unconditional release in pursuant of the release order made by the court on November 6.

The application was predicated on the grounds that the applicant was arrested on August 2 without a warrant of arrest and was further detained from August 2 to 7, without an order of court thereby breaching his fundamental human rights.

The plaintiff further claimed that the respondents had failed or refused to obey the orders of Justices Taiwo Taiwo and Ijeoma Ojukwu both of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which ordered his release on bail.

Sowore’s rearrest has continued to put the federal government in a bad light on the issue of respect for the rule of law.