NIGERIA’S Department of State Services (DSS) has been fined N100,000 ($275) by the federal high court in Abuja and given 24 hours to release former presidential aspirant and Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore.
In August, men of the DSS picked up Mr Sowore in Lagos as he was planning to organise a series of nationwide demonstrations under the banner #RevolutionNow. He has since been charged to court and in September, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu imposed a N100m bail bond on Mr Sowore while his co-defendant Olawale Bakare got N50m, following charges of treasonable felony levelled against them.
Both men were arraigned on a seven-count charge of treasonable felony, cyberstalking and money laundering. In October, however, Mr Sowore’s lawyers successfully appealed the Draconian terms imposed when he was first detained in August and Justice Ojukwu reduced his bail bond to N50m from N100m, while Mr Bakare’s bail was reduced to N20m from N50m.
Despite Mr Sowore meeting the bail conditions, the DSS have refused to release him from custody and he decided to protest this by embarking on an indefinite hunger strike. According to the DSS, they have refused to release him because of fears that he may be knocked down by a vehicle on his way out of their detention facility.
Exasperated with the security agency’s continued defiance of court orders, Justice Ojukwu has awarded a cost of N100, 000 against the DSS, stressing that prosecution of the defendants would not proceed until the fine is paid. Apart from initiating contempt of court proceedings against the DSS director-general Yusuf Bichi, the defendants have also filed a N1bn suit against him and the attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami, alleging the gross violation of their constitutional rights.
In separate fundamental rights enforcement suits, the defendants maintained that they are entitled to general and aggravated damages of N500m each as a result of violations of their rights to personal liberty, dignity of person, fair hearing, family life, freedom of association and freedom of movement. They further prayed the court to compel the two respondents to issue a public apology to them that will be published in five national dailies.
However, still defiant, DSS had in a fresh application it brought before the court, sought leave to transfer the defendants to a correctional facility. Sowore has been adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.