Nigeria's penchant for disobeying court order has taken a new dimension after being dragged to the UN and AU over refusal to release Sowore.
Fifty civil society organisations have called on the United Nations and the African Union to intervene in the Federal Government’s case against Omoyele Sowore and help secure the activist’s release following the refusal of the government to obey court order granting his release
, a report by Punch has revealed.
It was gathered that the 50 CSOs which called for the SaharaReporters publisher’s release included the Amnesty International, Media Rights Agenda, All Workers’ Convergence, Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa, Open Society Justice Initiative, Centre for Constitutional Rights, Moshood Abiola Vanguard for Democracy and the Movement For People’s Rights.
The CSOs had on August 23, 2019 filed an appeal against Sowore’s case to the UN and AU.
Sowore was arrested by the Department of State Services on August 3, 2019 for calling for a protest tagged #RevolutionNow. He was detained under the 2013 Terrorism Act.
But, a Federal High Court in Abuja on September 24, 2019 ordered the DSS to release him. However, he was still being detained as of Friday.
In a statement on Friday, the Programme Director of the Media Rights Agenda, Mr Ayode Longe, said it was anti-democratic to arrest Sowore for merely exercising his constitutional right of assembly, association and expression.
“It is the height of impunity to continue to detain him even after a court of competent jurisdiction has granted him bail. The DSS must immediately and unconditionally release Sowore,” he said.
Also speaking, the Community Manager for sub-Saharan Africa, Global Voices, Mr Nwachukwu Egbunike, said, “ Sowore’s continued detention and the charges of treason affirm our position that this trial is merely a criminalisation of political dissent.”
The Deputy Director, Socio Economic Rights & Accountability Project, Mr Olúwádàre Kóláwolé, said Sowore’s case and similar ones made a mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.
“Invoking charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law,” he said.
Meanwhile, a bailiff of the Federal High Court in Abuja has narrated how he was, on Friday, prevented from serving on the DSS, the court order for the release of Sowore from the agency’s custody.
In the affidavit of “non-service” which he deposed to before the court’s Commissioner of Oath later on Friday, Kenneth Kenter said he visited the headquarters of the DSS at Aso Drive, Abuja, to serve the court order twice, but was, on the two occasions denied access into the premises by the operatives of the security agency.
The affidavit was deposed to by a Bailiff of the Federal High Court, Kenneth Kenter.
One of Sowore’s lawyers, Sam Ogala, who was at the main gate of the DSS office during the bailiff’s attempt to serve the DSS Friday afternoon, had earlier confirmed the development to our correspondent.
Sowore’s legal team led by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had on Thursday expressed shock over DSS’ claim that it had not been served with the order issued by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja granting bail to Sowore.
On Thursday, after DSS’ Spokesperson, Dr Peter Afunanya denied that the agency had been served with the court order, Falana said, Ayuba Adam of the Legal Department of the DSS received the court order on behalf of the agency on September 24, 2019 (Tuesday).
He also noted that DSS’ lawyer was in court when Justice Taiwo issued the order.
The DSS, on September 3, arrested Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters and former presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections over his call for revolution protest scheduled to hold on September 5.
Justice Taiwo, on September 8, granted an ex parte application by the DSS permitting the security agency to keep the activist for 45 days.
The 45 days period expired on Saturday.
Barely 24 hours to the expiration of the 45 days detention order, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
On Tuesday, following Falana’s application, Justice ordered the release of Sowore, from the custody of the DSS pending his arraignment in court.
The judge ordered him to submit his passport in the court’s registry as the sole condition for the bail.