Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Four days after the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to release the convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, the agency is still holding onto the activist in disobedience of the court order.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo had last Tuesday, ordered the immediate release of Sowore who has been in detention since August 2 when he was arrested by DSS operatives in Lagos.
The activist’s arrest and subsequent transfer to Abuja, followed his call for a nationwide protest against alleged maladministration by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
But exactly 54 days after Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last general election was locked-up, the court which had earlier granted the DSS leave to retain him in custody for 45 days, ordered that he should be released “forthwith.”
While ordering his (Sowore) release, Justice Taiwo noted that the detention order he issued to the DSS on August 8, expired on September 21.
The court observed that though DSS initially filed an ex-parte motion for extension of the detention order for another 20 days, it later withdrew the application through its lawyer, Mr. Godwin Abadua and it was accordingly struck out.
He held that since the application has been struck out, there was nothing before the court to warrant Sowore’s continued stay in detention.
The judge said: “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.”
Taking into cognizance that the Federal Government has already slammed seven-count charge against the detained activist, Justice Taiwo directed Sowore to surrender his international passport to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court, after which he should be released to his lead counsel, Mr. Femi Falana ( SAN) within 48 hours.
The court further warned Falana to ensure his client availability for trial.
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Meanwhile, the DSS had since spurned the order, despite frantic attempts by Sowore’s lawyers to secure his freedom.
A member of the Sowore’s legal team told Saturday Vanguard that the agency blatantly refused to release him, feigning ignorance of the order.
The spokesperson of the DSS had claimed that the agency has not received a copy of the court order, contrary to claim by Falana, that it was duly received on September 24, the same day it was made by one Ayuba Adam of the DSS Legal Department.
The agency made the denial a few hours after Falana commenced a process to commit its Director-General, Yusuf Bichi, to prison for flouting a subsisting court order for Sowore’s release
The lawyer decried the DSS refusal to comply with the court order even after it was duly served with an affidavit of compliance.
Consequently, he filed a Form-48, which is a “Notice of Consequence of Disobedience of Court Order” for Bichi to adduce reasons why he should not be jailed for disobeying the court order.
The process against the DSS chief read: “Notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the order of the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja, delivered on September 21, 2019, which ordered you to release the applicant in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/915/2019 forthwith, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison. A copy of the said order of court earlier served on you is hereby annexed for your on-the-spot reference.
“This court has been informed that even as at today, Thursday, September 26, 2019, you are yet to comply with the lawful order of the Federal High Court by refusing to release the applicant namely: OMOYELE SOWORE, in your custody. You are hereby directed to comply with the court order forthwith or you will be guilty of contempt of court.”
Despite its denial of the court order, the DSS, on Friday, 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 at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, was asked to return by 12 noon when the Director-General of DSS would be around.
However, upon his return at 12.:14 p.m., the bailiff was denied access into the premises.
DSS had told the court that Sowore committed “a capital offence” punishable by death.
Vanguard gathered on Friday that the detained activist may be arraigned next week on the seven-count charge FG preferred against him.
In the charge, FG accused Sowore of committing treasonable felony, money-laundering, cyber-stalking and insulting President Buhari.
DSS had told the court that Sowore got a foreign sponsorship to wage war against President Buhari’s administration.