By Alex Enumah
The federal government on Wednesday opened its case in the trial of the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore, by calling its first witness, one Mr Rasheed Olawale, an operative of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Sowore and Olawale Bakare are standing trial on a two-count charge bordering on treasonable felony.
They were initially arraigned by the DSS last September but the Ministry of Justice later took over the prosecution of the case.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Aminu Alilu, the first prosecution witness (PW1), disclosed that he led the team of operatives who arrested Sowore last August in Lagos.
According to the witness, Sowore was arrested around 1 am at Montana residence and hotel at 16 Oduduwa road GRA Ikeja, Lagos.
He said Sowore was arrested following intelligence report that he (Sowore) had planned to carry out a revolution along with his associates on August 5, 2019, against the democratic government of Nigeria.
Speaking further, the witness said their “investigation report revealed that Sowore was in Maryland with his associates and cohorts, making graphic inscriptions tagged #RevolutionNow on the wall of Maryland bridge.
“He was sensitizing passers-by of the particular day for the protest and what they planned to do. He also claimed that the government of the day would cease to exist through the procession”.
At this stage, the lead counsel to the first defendant, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), raised an objection, claiming that the witness was given evidence not contained in his earlier statement which was served on the defence team.
Falana argued that the defendant is entitled to know the entirety of the case, adding that it was for that reason they demanded the full statement of the witnesses as enshrined in section 36(6) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The senior lawyer submitted that allowing the evidence would amount to an “ambush” against his client.
He urged the court to direct the prosecution counsel to limit the witness to his earlier statement.
However, the prosecution counsel in a quick response said that the law allows them to only serve a “summary” of a witness’ statement on the defence.
Alilu then urged the court to allow the witness continue with his evidence, adding that the defence would also get the opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
In a short ruling, the trial judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, held that the witness was giving his testimony outside the scope of his written statement made earlier.
She said although the witness does not have to use the exact words used in his written statement, he is limited to the scope of the evidence adduced.
Consequently, she ordered the prosecution to go back and reproduce the statements of all the witnesses.
Justice Ojukwu however said ruling on the application seeking witness protection would be delivered on the next adjourned date.
She subsequently adjourned to April 1 and 2 for continuation of the first witness’ evidence and trial.
The prosecution had applied to the court to shield the witnesses that would be testifying against the defendants, but the request was opposed by Falana on the grounds that the identities of the witnesses listed are already in the public domain.