Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the detention of the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, Omoyele Sowore for a period of 45 days.
This is coming as a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome has warned that the detention of Sowore was bad news for democracy in the country.
But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has described those calling for a forceful takeover of government as enemies of the country and called on Nigerians to reject the toxic messages of these individuals.
The 45-day period according to Justice Taiwo is to enable the Department of State Services (DSS) carry out and conclude its investigation of Sowore on allegations of instigating the public and seeking a change of the present administration.
The DSS had on August 6 through an ex-parte application sought an order of court to detain Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 election for a period of 90 days to enable them conclude their investigation of alleged act of treason and terrorism.
But delivering ruling yesterday on the ex-parte application, Justice Taiwo held that the court has the jurisdiction to grant the request, adding that section 27 of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act under which the motion was brought, empowers him to do so.
Justice Taiwo said after consideration of the argument canvassed by the DSS’ lawyer, Godwin Agbadua, he came to the conclusion that there is an allegation of commission of crime by the respondent and that investigation is still ongoing.
He added that since the facts are allegations, “which must be proved at the appropriate place and time”, he was inclined to grant the application only to the extent that the respondent shall be detained for a period of 45 days for the applicant to conclude its investigation.
Justice Taiwo, however, said if at the end of the 45 days, investigation was yet to be concluded, the applicant can apply for a fresh order but must not keep him without an order of court.
Sowore was arrested in the early hours of Saturday by men of the DSS on account of the #RevolutionNow protest, which he had spearheaded.
He was then moved to Abuja on Sunday morning and is currently in the custody of the DSS.
DSS’ request to detain him for 90 days was contained in ex-parte motion marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 915/19 and filed on behalf of the agency by Agbadua.
But trial judge, Justice Taiwo, after listening to the submission of the DSS lawyer, said he needed time to watch the video clips attached to the motion.
The video clips include a scene showing Sowore in a conversation with leader of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and a statement alleged to have been made Sowore to the extent that members of the recent Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) will join forces with him to bring down the government of the day.
The matter has been adjourned till September 21, when the 45 days would elapse.
Meanwhile, Ozekhome has warned that the detention of Sowore was bad news for democracy in the country.
The senior lawyer in a statement issued yesterday, said his detention was a bad news for democracy and human rights, “especially because the application was made and granted ex-parte, behind Sowore’s back. What was the extreme urgency in the matter -usually the main ground for granting ex-parte orders, that the judge couldn’t order the government, who in any case was already detaining Sowore, to put him on notice?”
He argued that what Sowore was being detained for did not amount to treasonable felony as espoused by the federal government, adding that even President Muhammadu Buhari had in the past made similar calls and he was never detained.
“Do this amount to treason or treasonable felony? Do you announce a “revolution,” if not for the mischief of some people deliberately reading the word literally rather than figuratively? Didn’t President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014 call for a “revolution” in Nigeria during campaigns for presidency? Didn’t Chief Bola Tinubu in 2011 call for a “revolution”? Were they interpreted literally to mean actual overthrow of the then government of President Goodluck Jonathan?
“The court could also have ordered Sowore to show cause why he should not be detained for 45 days. I think it was discretion wrongly exercised, not having been exercised judicially and judiciously,” he added.
However, APC has insisted that those calling for forceful takeover of government are enemies of Nigeria.
In a statement issued yesterday by the spokesman of APC, Alhaji Lanre Issa Onilu, the party described the proponents of revolution as cowards and enemies of Nigeria.
The party claimed that the recent arrest of Sowore by the DSS must be seen for what it is – a legal and timely action by the security services to protect the nation’s democracy and protect the country and its citizens against any action that threatens the collective peace and safety of the citizens
“Predictably, some desperate individuals, sore losers, and their sympathisers are acting in vain trying to pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians.
“Of course, the disgruntled presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is expectedly the patron and cheerleader of the unpatriotic elements who would rather bring our country down for being rejected at the polls.
“The desperate attempt to politicise a legitimate action by the security agencies and futile effort to spread falsehood to create chaos in the country are clearly irresponsible actions,” the party added.
APC called on Nigerians to look at the issue of Sowore’s arrest dispassionately devoid of the skewed narratives and sentiments being propagated by these individuals, alleging that Sowore arrived the country recently and openly threatened a revolution against a constitutionally recognised and legitimate government.
“From elections to governance and general conduct, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has demonstrated its adherence and defence of the rule of law over politics and sundry interests,” APC added.