By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— Justice Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, declined to hear an application the convener of RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore, who has been in custody of the Department of State Service, DSS, since August 2, filed to be released on bail.
The detained activist, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election, had through his team of lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, prayed the court to review the leave is granted to the DSS to retain him in custody for 45 days.
Meanwhile, as Sowore applications came up for hearing yesterday, Justice Maha who is sitting as a vacation judge of the court, said she was not minded to proceed with the case.
Maha noted that the detention order was issued against Sowore on August 8 by Justice Taiwo Taiwo who also sat as a vacation judge.
Relying on past judgments of the Supreme Court, the judge said she was not competent to review or overrule the proceeding and decision of her learned brother.
She stressed that the apex court held that courts of the same coordinate jurisdiction have no power to review the decision of each other.
Besides, she further noted that Justice Taiwo had after he granted the 45 days detention order, adjourned the matter till September 21 for hearing.
“Consequently, this matter is hereby transferred back to Justice Taiwo, being a vacation court, to be heard by him”, Justice Maha ruled.
Immediately the ruling was delivered, Sowore’s lawyer, Falana, SAN, prayed the judge to consider the liberty of his client and look into his bail request, contending that the Federal High Court is one.
Maha refused the plea on the premise that having delivered her ruling, she had become functus-officio in the matter.
Earlier before his request was rejected, Falana argued that the court was constitutionally empowered to nullify an exparte order that was granted in error by another judge.
Contending that the detention order Justice Taiwo issued in favour of the DSS was ab-initio a nullity, Falana argued that Order 26 Rule 9 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019, permitted anyone affected by such order to within seven days, approach the court to set it aside.
He said his client had within 24 hours after the order was issued against him, filed a motion to challenge its legality.
The DSS had in an affidavit it filed before the court, alleged that Sowore was sponsored by external forces to topple President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
It said in a bid to achieve his mission, Sowore, held meetings with leaders of outlawed groups, and subsequently called for a revolution against a democratically elected government in the country.
However, in a counter process he filed before the court, though Sowore admitted that he had a meeting with the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in the United States of America, he denied receiving any fund to wage war against President Buhari.
Sowore told the court that contrary to the allegation by the DSS, he has never visited Dubai or any other country in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, since he was born, adding that the DSS was not aware that he had a meeting with the IPOB leader till it was published on his online news platform, Sahara Reporters.
He told the court that DSS operatives that investigated both his local and foreign banks’ account details to establish if he received funds to fight against Buhari, said they could not believe that he does not have millions of Naira.
Arguing that he was illegally arrested, Sowore told the court that he had been idle in detention and required urgent treatment of ankle injury he sustained on August 2 when he was arrested by DSS operatives.
In the affidavit deposed on his behalf by a lawyer in Falana’s chamber, Abubakar Marshal, Sowore said he had never been involved in any terrorist activity “and there is no evidence whatsoever linking him to any terrorist activity”.
He said though the RevolutionNow mass protest took place in many cities across the country on August 5 in his absence, there was no reported attempt to violently topple the government in Nigeria.