FORMER presidential candidate and social rights campaigner Omoyele Sowore has been granted bail by a federal high court in Abuja which ruled that he should be set free upon the surrendering of his international passport.
Last month, men of the Department of State Security (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 moved to their headquarters in Abuja and the federal government asked for a court order to detain him for 90 days but this request was denied by the Abuja Federal High Court, only allowing the SSS to detain him for 45 days.
Among other things, the government has accused Mr Sowore of committing a treasonable act for calling on Nigerians to pour out on the streets on August 5 to protest against his government’s failure to improve the living conditions of Nigerians. According to the DSS, its investigation so far revealed that #RevolutionNow was allegedly a smokescreen for the actual intention of Mr Sowore and his allies to topple the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mr Sowore’s lawyer Femi Falana filed an application for bail, however and this afternoon, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered his release. In his judgement, Justice Taiwo said Mr Falana must produce Mr Sowore for arraignment whenever he is required.
However, the judge ruled that said since charges had already been filed against the activist, he must deposit his passport and other travel documents to guarantee his availability for trial. According to Mr Falana, the order issued by the court on August 8, 2019 permitting the DSS to hold Mr Sowore for 45 days, had expired on September 21.
He urged the court to issue a consequential order releasing Mr Sowore from custody. However, responding, DSS lawyer, GO Agbadua, said that since the charges had been filed against the activist on September 20, it was lawful to continue to keep until arraignment.
Mr Falana argued however: “Filing of charges cannot metamorphose into a detention order. A citizen cannot detain a citizen in anticipation of arraignment.”
Earlier, Mr Agbadua withdrew the DSS’ application asking for the extension of the period of the detention of Mr Sowore for a further 20 days. His request for the withdrawal of the said application was based on the fact that charges had been filed against the activist.
Mr Falana also withdrew Mr Sowore’s application for bail on the grounds that the application had become academic since the order of detention had expired. On the grounds of the expiration of the detention order and the withdrawal of the DSS’ request for further detention of Mr Sowore, Mr Falana urged the court to order his client’s release.
In his ruling, the judge agreed with Mr Falana by ordering the immediate release of Mr Sowore from custody. It is not yet clear if the government will obey the court order, appeal against it or simply ignore it, as has happened in the past in the cases of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, Nnamdi Kanu and Col Sambo Dasuki.