Mr Ishmael Rufus, a Public Affairs Analyst has cautioned the judiciary on sacrificing national interest on the altar of freedom of expression.
Rufus, while briefing newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, insisted that the judiciary must give priority to a national security interest in considering bail for capital offence suspects.
He said he was speaking against the background of the recent bail granted to the Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyele Sowore.
“The judiciary should not play to the gallery of media hype and another populist posturing in considering cases involving national security issues, national interest should not be trivialized,” he said.
He posited that the issue of Sowore should raise genuine concerns whether the gravity of the offences for which he had been charged justified his release on bail.
“Unfettered expression of ideas may cause serious harm, hatred or contempt or excite public disaffection or incite or instigate violence or threats within or against the state.
“Any government that delays action against the mismanagement of public space in an attempt to allow freedom of expression does so at its own peril.
“That is why it is provided in Sections 39(3) and 45(1) of the Constitution that the provisions of Section 39 will not invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
“Nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.
“It is instructive that the Abuja court held that since the charges of terrorism had already been filed against Sowore, he must deposit his international passport and other travel documents with the court to guarantee his availability for trial.”
The public affairs analyst said that alone was an indication of the risks to national security and evasion of justice.
Rufus recalled what happened in the cases of the leader of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, and the leader of Shiites, Ibrahim El Zakzaky, when they were granted bail and leave.
“This recalls the Kanu bail episode and the granting of medical leave to El Zakzaky when the courts caved into undue pressure to grant supposedly justified bail only to end up in fiascos.
“Although the Constitution in Section 39 provides for the freedom of expression, such freedom is not absolute and it comes with its own limitations.”
He maintained that whether the actions of Sowore fell within such limitations would be decided by the court in due course.
Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 election is being charged by the Federal Government with a capital offence and conspiracy to commit treason.
It will be recalled that he had spent 45 days in Department of State Services (DSS) custody following his arrest on Aug. 3 for planning a nationwide protest tagged “RevolutionNow”.
He was subsequently charged with offences of treasonable felony, money laundering, terrorism and plots to overthrow the president.