Armed operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) have arrived the federal high court in Abuja ahead of the arraignment of the human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, for alleged treasonable felony and cyberstalking President Muhammadu Buhari.
The operatives who arrived the court in a black Hilux vehicle were seen moving around and inspecting the premises alongside a court security guard.
Obey court order, Ondo group tells FG Europe, Nigerian groups adopt Sowore as prisoner of conscience
Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has described the Department of State Services (DSS) as a notorious agency that enjoys treating judicial process with disdain, particularly as it pertains to obeying orders of courts enforcing the fundamental rights of Nigerians.
This is coming as an Ondo State pressure group, the Sunshine Liberation Movement (SLM), has urged the federal government to set free detained politician, journalist and activist, Omoyele Sowore, in obedience to a court order that admitted him to bail.
International civil rights groups in collaboration with their Nigerian counterparts have, however, adopted Sowore as a prisoner of conscience.
The NBA position, which was made known in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, referred to the “unfortunate and flagrant disobedience of the order of Hon. Mr. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja directing the release on bail of Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Security Service of Nigeria on the 24th of September, 2019, of which the bail terms have long been perfected by the detainee’s counsel.”
The body of Nigerian legal practitioners said: “This is unacceptable in a country where there are laws and a nation whose Head of State professed at the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly to respect the human rights of citizens.”
The NBA statement condemned the continued detention of Sowere by the DSS, saying this amounted to “violation of his constitutional rights to personal liberty and that no one person shall be deprived of his liberty without a valid court order, as provided for in Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Expressing its disapproval of the continued detention of former National Security Officer, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), in spite of various court orders, the NBA called for the immediate release of Sowore and other Nigerians languishing in DSS detention centres without any charge.
In another statement issued yesterday, NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), said assaults on the independence of the judiciary and legal profession by various governments around the world have increased.
In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, as part of his take-away from the recently concluded International Bar Association (IBA) conference in Seoul, South Korea, he said while these attacks were no longer new to Nigeria, it was consoling in some sense to learn that the attacks on lawyers have progressed in other climes.
The senior lawyer said: “The old methods used by attackers used to be by charging lawyers for sedition and treason. However, the new style of charging them now is for money laundering and others such as criminal acts, all in a contrived plan to cow lawyers and degrade the independence of the profession. While this was being discussed at the conference, I thought to myself, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not invent this wheel after all.
Meanwhile, Sunshine Liberation Movement has urged the federal government to set free Sowore in obedience to a court order that admitted him to bail. The group’s President, Mr. Dipo Ajidahun, speaking with THISDAY, said the government should not lose sight to the fact that we are in a democratic dispensation and as such, court orders should not be treated with levity.
Ajidahun said: “Nobody is saying the government should not prosecute anyone suspected to have committed any crime, but the government cannot also be the judge in its own case. Since a court had justified that he should be admitted to bail, having met all the conditions attached to his trial, there is no basis for the government to assume that it knows more than the court.
In a related development, international civil rights groups in collaboration with their Nigerian counterparts have adopted Sowore as a prisoner of conscience.
The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) in collaboration with the United Kingdom-based groups, Global Witness, Cornerhouse and Re: Common of Italy and their counterparts in Nigeria, in a statement at the weekend, said they have adopted Sowore as prisoner of conscience, a term adopted in 1961 to qualify
people detained for their political beliefs.
Scores of prisoners of conscience have been adopted across Africa and have always formed the rallying point for intensive international campaigns against their home governments.
Corner House is a past recipient of the prestigious liberty, justice and law society human rights award.
Local partners of the initiative are: Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), Enough is Enough (EiE), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and several others.
The statement jointly signed by HEDA Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, Simon Taylor, Nicholas Hildyard and Antonio Tricarico on behalf of the groups, stated: “We have followed with keen interest the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Omoyele Sowore, the Publisher of SaharaReporters. He was detained for 45 days on obvious charges for which the state has yet to provide credible evidential basis.”