ATTORNEY-general of the federation Abubakar Malami has rejected calls to order the immediate release of former presidential candidate and Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore saying he cannot adjudicate on the matter as it is still in court.
Sowore, 47, was released on bail on December 5 after spending 125 days in detention when the Department of State Security (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 the following day 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.
Since then, Mr Sowore has been held in detention with the Nigerian government facing heavy criticism for refusing to obey a court order. Mr Malami in particular has come under criticism for being unprofessional as being the justice minister, he should be the one upholding the rule of law in the country.
Reeling under pressure both local and international, Mr Malami said he could not order the DSS to release Mr Sowore as the matter is still in court. He added that issuing such an order would be tantamount to him taking a unilateral decision as the matter is still subject to judicial review.
Already, Mr Malami has ordered the DSS to hands-off the Sowore trial asking that the case file be transferred to his office. From now on, his office will represent the government in court but there are no signs that it will honour the court ruling.
Mr Malami said: “When parties submit their issues for determination to a court of law, they lack exclusivity of decision over such issues without recourse to the court. We remain guided by the established tradition and will not take unilateral decision without recourse to the rule of law.”
Mr Sowore, arrested on August 3 for calling on Nigerians to demand a better country from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be seen as a big threat to the government. During his trial, he pointed out that government officials had made it clear to him that he will not leave prison alive.