NIGERIA’S House of Representatives has instituted a probe into the recent actions of the Department of State Security (DSS) in response to the recent storming of an Abuja courthouse by armed operatives who sought to arrest publisher Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore, 47, was released on bail last Thursday after spending 125 days in detention when the DSS was forced to obey a court order granting him bail. Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court in Abuja had fined the DSS N100,000 for not obeying her order to release Sowore despite him meeting all the bail conditions.
Left with no other option, the DSS let Sowore go but on Friday, when he appeared in court as the substantive hearing continued, the security men were waiting for him. Heavily-armed DSS operatives disrupted the court proceedings, drove away Mr Sowore’s lawyer Femi Falana and chased Justice Ojukwu out of the courtroom at gun point.
Incensed at the impunity of the DSS and the manner in which its operatives stormed a courtroom, human rights activists have been calling for the immediate sacking of its director-general Mr Yusuf Bichi. Today, the House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the invasion and disruption of court proceedings following the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by the minority leader Hon Ndudi Elumelu.
Sowore, a former presidential candidate and the publisher of online media outlet Sahara Reporters has been re-arrested and it is believed the DSS plans to bring three fresh charges against him. When the motion to probe the DSS was passed, House of Representatives speaker Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, however, prevented lawmakers from debating the matter, referred it to the relevant committees for investigation.
Described as an affront to the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers, the House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the invasion of a branch of the federal high court. Today’s motion canvassed for adherence and respect to the concept of separation of powers as enshrined in the laws of Nigeria, pointing out that if the invasion was not checked and offenders punished, it might lead to the National Assembly being invaded one day.
Hon Elumelu said: “The House notes with dismay, the exhibition of thuggery, brute force, lawlessness, contempt and disregard for the rule of law by yet-to-be-identified persons within the precinct of the federal high court, Abuja on the 6th day of December, 2019. The House also further notes that the videos emerging in the public domain shows these unidentified person trying to bundle Omoleye Sowore and his co-accused Olawale Bakare away from the courtroom, while Sowore’s supporters were resisting them, which is an abuse to the sanctity of the courtroom.”
“Concerned that the men of the civil society claims that the unidentified masked man are agents of the DSS, we are worried that the actions of these unidentified persons disrupted judicial proceedings on the 6th day of December 2019 and made the presiding judge to abandon her duty post because of safety concerns. A situation where one arm is seen to be overpowering another in the course of dispensing her duties, will definitely spell doom as this is a complete desecration of the temple of justice and such an action should be completely discouraged.
“We are worried further that if this action is not properly put to check, the National Assembly may one day be invaded and the relevant security agencies will claim not knowing who the offenders are. The invasion of the federal high court Abuja runs contrary to the avowed assurances of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Adopting the motion, the House mandated its committees on National Security and Intelligence, Judiciary and Human Rights respectively to investigate the event and report back within two weeks. Already, the DSS spokesman Peter Afunanya, has denied that the agency’s personnel were ever involved in the incident.