Sowore still in DSS cell, agency set to arraign him again next week
• Adegboruwa, Schiffrin, Others Decry His Continued Detention
The Department of State Service (DSS) is still holding activist and Convener of the botched RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, in its custody four days after the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered his release.
The Guardian learnt yesterday from sources within the secret Police that the agency was not in a hurry to release the activist, saying: “We are aware of the court order, but we are still keeping him to be arraigned next week on charges that Nigerians will know of when he gets to court.”
Meanwhile, investigative journalists around the world yesterday joined the call for Sowore’s immediate release, just as the human rights lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa (SAN) has declared his continued detention by the DSS illegal.
In her speech delivered at the on-going Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Hamburg, Germany, the Director, Media, Technology and Advocacy Specialisation, Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Anya Schiffrin, lamented Sowore’s continued detention by the DSS even after reportedly meeting his bail conditions.
Schiffrin said: “Mr. Sowore is a world-renowned journalist. He has pioneered new and important avenues in the field of investigative journalism.
“In addition, he is the founder of the well-known online investigative news outlet, Sahara Reporters, that focuses on corruption and political misconduct.
“Many colleagues in the worlds of journalism and academia hold Mr. Sowore in great esteem for his life-long effort in speaking truth to power.“After Sowore had spent more than six weeks in jail, on September 24, a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, granted Sowore bail and asked Sowore to surrender his passport pending his trial.”
Justice Taiwo of the Federal High Court had last Tuesday ordered the release of Sowore, who has been in the DSS custody since August 2, this year, when he was arrested in Lagos by the Service.
While ordering his release, Justice Taiwo noted that the detention order he issued to the DSS on August 8 expired last Saturday, September 21.The Judge had observed that he took cognizance of the fact that the DSS initially filed an ex-parte motion for extension of the detention order for another 20 days, but later withdrew the application through its lawyer, Godwin Abadua, and it was accordingly struck out.He held that the application having been struck out, there was nothing before the court to warrant Sowore’s continued stay in detention, noting: “The constitutional right to liberty of the high and the low, as well as the poor and the rich is guaranteed under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I am of the view that the Respondent ought to be released forthwith in view of the fact that there is no extant order of this court for his continued detention.”
But the DSS appears to have ignored the court order, as frantic attempts by Sowore’s lawyers to secure his freedom had hit a brick wall. A member of his legal team disclosed that the agency blatantly refused to release him, feigning ignorance of the order.Spokesperson of the DSS had claimed that the agency had yet to receive a copy of the court order, contrary to insistence of Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), that it was duly received on September 24, the same day it was made, by one Ayuba Adam of the Legal Department of the DSS.
The agency made the denial few hours after Sowore’s lawyer commenced a process to commit its DSS Director General, Yusuf Bichi, to prison for flouting a subsisting court order after the detained activist had met all the conditions for his release. Falana decried the refusal by the DSS to comply with the court order even after it was duly served with an affidavit of compliance and consequently filed a Form-48, which is ‘Notice of Consequence of Disobedience of Court Order,’ for Bichi to adduce reasons why he should not be jailed for disobeying the court order.
Despite its denial of receiving the court order, the DSS, yesterday, blocked an attempt by a Bailiff of the court to re-serve it with the order. The Bailiff, who arrived at the DSS headquarters in Abuja about 9:30a.m yesterday, was asked to return by 12noon when Bichi would be around.
However, upon his return at 12.40p.m, the Bailiff was denied access into the DSS premises.Adegboruwa, in an interview with The Guardian said if Sowore has met his bail conditions as claimed by his lawyers, his continued detention was in flagrant violation of the express order of the court. According to him, Nigeria is running a constitutional democracy, founded upon the concept of the rule of law, which prescribes unconditional respect for all orders of the court.
Adegboruwa said: “The DSS has not appealed against the order of the Federal High Court admitting Sowore on bail pending his trial, if any. That imposed on it a compulsory obligation to comply with the said order, willy-nilly.
“Indeed, it was upon the order of court that the DSS kept Sowore in custody in the first place and if the same court has now ordered his release, there can be no justification for his continued detention. When government and its agencies refuse to obey lawful orders of court, society descends into the Hobbesian state where life becomes brutish and short, and this encourages citizens to resort to lawlessness.
“Under and by virtue of section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, ‘the decisions of the Federal High Court shall be enforced in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons.’“To that extent, there can be no justification whatsoever, for the continued detention of Sowore by the DSS, especially as it is not contesting the order of court. This is why the continued detention of Mr Sowore by the DSS is illegal.”
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