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Court awards N2m fine against DSS over seizure of Sowore’s phone

By Guardian Nigeria
09 December 2021   |   4:27 am
The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to pay Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, N2 million over the unlawful seizure of his mobile phone..

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian activist and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore appears at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to pay Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, N2 million over the unlawful seizure of his mobile phone in 2019 at the point of his arrest.

Delivering judgment in the human rights suit filed by Sowore, the judge, Anwuli Chikere, also ordered the DSS to immediately release the iPhone and a cash of N10,000, which were alleged to have been forcibly taken away from him without court warrant.

Sowore had, through his lawyer, Funmi Falana, alleged that operatives of the DSS, on August 3, 2019, at a hotel in Lagos, forcibly took away his iPhones and the sum of N10,000 when he was arrested on allegations bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.

He was arrested on the basis of his plan to lead a protest, tagged, #RevolutionNow, against the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over its alleged maladministration.

The judge ordered the DSS, the 1st respondent in the case, to also tender an apology to Sowore in two national dailies within two months.

Chikere described the seizure of the personal property of the publisher of Sahara Reporters as “illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and gross violation of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.”

She said the DSS ought to have obtained a court order before confiscation of his belongings and that the seizure cannot be regarded as “temporary” since 2019.

The judge also held that the claim by the DSS that his phones were still under investigation since 2019 over his alleged link with terrorists was untenable, illegal and unconstitutional.

Mrs. Falana, while reacting to the judgment, expressed happiness and described it as victory for justice.
DSS had, on December 1, told the court that it was still investigating the mobile phones of Sowore, still under its custody.

The security outfit said contrary to the allegations, the phones were “recovered” during his arrest and not seized.

But Falana challenged the DSS on the legality of the seizure without a valid court order. She urged the judge to dismiss the preliminary objections and order the return of Sowore’s phones, as well as pay N20 million in damages to the applicant. Chikere dismissed the defence put forward by DSS and granted Sowore’s prayers.