Alleged Treason: Court Declines to Revoke Sowore’s Bail

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday declined to revoke the bail she earlier granted to the convener of #RevolutionNow Movement, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

Sowore and another member of the Movement, Mr. Olawale Bakare, are being prosecuted by the federal government on charges bordering on alleged treason.

They were said to have committed the alleged offences by staging ‘a revolution’ campaign against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari on August 5, 2019.

The #RevolutionNow protest called by Sowore, according to the government, was allegedly aimed at removing the president from office by unconstitutional means.

They, however, pleaded guilty and were admitted to bail in late 2019.

At their resumed trial yesterday, neither the defendants nor their counsel were present in court, forcing the court to stand down the matter until 1 p.m. yesterday.

When the matter resumed later in the afternoon, counsel to the defendants, Marshal Abubakar, explained that he was not in court earlier on assumption that the matter would not hold on the account of an application he filed on January 29, 2021, seeking to vacate February 4 for hearing proceedings.”

He said they had hoped to make the request on the last adjourned date but trial was stalled due to the demise of Ibrahim Watila, a Federal High Court Judge.

Abubakar, however, apologised for the communication gap between the registry and the defence counsel.

While responding, prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aminu Alilu, said it is shocking that the court has been made to wait for the arrival of the defendant for the second time, and that the counsel, each time, “has abused the indulgence of this honourable court to create lies.”

He recalled how the court had fined the prosecution N200,000 because the same defence berated them for not being diligent and not being ready to proceed with their case.

While arguing that the defence must show readiness to answer to the charge, he faulted the application on the grounds that reason was not adduced why the court should vacate yesterday’s proceedings.

Alilu, therefore, urged the court to vacate the bail granted Sowore and Bakare.

“We pray, relying on section 184 earlier cited, that the bail of the defendant be revoked and their surety should be invited to show cause why they should not forfeit their bail bonds,” he said.

He also asked the court to award cost against the defendants in favour of the witnesses who were in court.

However in a short ruling Justice Ojuwku, who berated the defence for their actions, noted that the registrar, who informed the court about the letter was also asked to inform counsel to make their application in the open court “being that the court cannot adjourn a matter on record on the application of one party in the absence of another by means of a mere letter.”

She said Abubakar’s view that the letter offers sufficient notice for the absence of the defendant is “speculative.”

Ojukwu said the letter written by Mrs. Funmi Falana, wife of Femi Falana (SAN), also failed to state the reason why date fixed for the trial should be vacated until after Easter break.

“It does not lie in the mouth of the counsel to give the court a date or take over the official duties of the court on the grounds that his letter should suffice.

“There was no letter from the chief judge that the court should not sit on February 4 and 5, that declared those dates public holiday if possible.

“No reason was offered for the absence of the defendant or counsel, only that the matter should proceed on the date convenient for the defendants.

“I find that unacceptable as a reason not to hear the matter today,” she stated.

Although the Judge refused to revoke the bail of the defendants, she awarded N150,000 cost against Bakare, who was not present in court.

The case was adjourned to April 28 and 29, 2021, for continuation of trial.