By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

Trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the detained convener of the RevolutionNow Protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, to enter his plea to the seven-count charge the Federal Government preferred against him.

Sowore
Omoyele Sowore

Sowore, alongside his co-defendant, Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate), initially declined to enter their plea to the charge, challenging their planned arraignment when the Department of State Service, DSS, failed to comply with an order the court made for his immediate release.

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Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election and publisher of an online media platform, Sahara Reporters, further told to court that he was not duly served with a copy of the charge against him, insisting that he was denied access to his lawyers.

He addressed the court through his lawyer, Mr. Olumide Fusika, SAN, decried that he termed as an act of lawlessness by the security agency which he said refused to obey the directive of the same court that granted it leave to detain him for 45 days.

Fusika told the court that Sowore’s lead counsel, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, got to know about the arraignment from reports in the Newspaper, despite the fact that he was at the office of the DSS till 10pm on Sunday.

Meanwhile, FG’s lawyer, Mr. Hassan Liman, SAN, told the court that the defendants were duly served with the charge on September 20.

Liman argued that the high court only ordered that Sowore should be released until his arraignment.

He argued that the release order has elapsed since the defendants have been brought before the court for arraignment.

Besides, the prosecution contended that the charge was already served on the defendants before the court ordered Sowore’s release on September 24.

In her ruling, Justice Ojukwu held it was not in doubt that the defendants were served with the charge.

The judge noted that no reference was made to any court order stopping the defendants from taking their plea to the criminal charge.

“I see no breach of any of the tenets of justice in the present circumstance. What is before this Court is a criminal matter.

“I am of the view that there is no impediment to arraignment of the defendants. The defendants are therefore called-up to enter their plea”, the court held.

Meanwhile, all the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge even as they prayed the court for bail.

The prosecution however prayed the court to remand them in custody pending trial, adding that investigation had been concluded.

The defence lawyer argued that there was no reason for the defendants to remain in custody since investigation is concluded.

He further drew attention of the court that Sowore has been in detention since August 2, pleading that he should be allowed to go home on the bail terms the court earlier granted him.

FG had charged Sowore and his co-defendant with conspiracy, money laundering, cyber-stalking and allegation that he insulted President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the statement of offence that was attached to count-one of the charge marked FHC/ ABJ/CR/235/2019, FG, alleged that the defendants committed conspiracy to commit treasonable felony, contrary to section 516 of the criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under the same section of the Act.

“That you Omoyele Stephen Sowore , Male Adult of No 1 Mosafejo Street, Kiribo, Ese-Odo LGA, Ondo State, Olawale Adebayo Bakare  {aka Mandate} Male, Adult of Olaiya Arca, Oshogbo LGA Osun State and others at large, under the eagis of Coalition for Revolution (CORE), sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspired amongst yourselves to stage a revolution campaign on 5th day of August 2019 tagged #RevolutionNow”  aimed at removing the President and Commander –in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office otherwise known than by constitutional means”.

FG further accused Sowore of committing “cyberstalking”, contrary to section 24 (1) (b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2015 and punishable under the same section of the Act.

He was charged with legal transfer of funds contrary to section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same section of the Act.

FG alleged that Sowore had on April 2, at Lagos and Abuja, transferred by means of swift wire, the sum of $19, 975 from his  United Bank of Africa Plc Account No. 3002246104 credited by City Bank, New York City, USA, into Sahara Reporters Media Foundations GTB Account No. 0424048298 with the aim of concealing or disguising the illicit origin of the funds,

It alleged that he also transferred $16, 975 from the same UBA Account credited to him by LANDRUM of 7e 146 W 29thStreeet, New York, NY10001, USA, via City Bank Plc, the aim to conceal the illicit origin of the funds.

The charge, which was endorsed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was signed by a senior state counsel, Mr. A.M. Alilu.

FG has already lined-up six witnesses against the defendants, including bank officials from UBA and GTB.

The DSS had earlier told the court that Sowore got foreign sponsorship to wage war against the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

It tendered evidence to prove that Sowore held meetings with both the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu and members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN.

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