How Dss court in­va­sion forced agf to take over sowore’s case

•Move by se­cret ser­vice to file ter­ror­ism charges against ac­tivist foiled •With­draw charges against him, Bakare, Falana tells Malami


Des­per­ate moves by the Depart­ment of State Ser­vices to file fresh charges against the con­vener of #Revo­lu­tion­now protest, Omoyele Sowore, was what trig­gered the At­tor­ney General of the Fed­er­a­tion, Abubakar Malami’s takeover of the pros­e­cu­tion of the ac­tivist from the agency, Satur­day PUNCH learnt on Fri­day.

Our cor­re­spon­dent learnt that the de­ci­sion by the AGF to ask the DSS to stay off the pros­e­cu­tion of the ac­tivist was in re­sponse to the em­bar­rass­ment caused the gov­ern­ment by the dis­grace­ful con­duct of the in­va­sion of the Fed­eral High Court in Abuja by op­er­a­tives of the agency in their bid to re­ar­rest Sowore on De­cem­ber 6.

Malami had said on Wed­nes­day that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent.

The DSS op­er­a­tives had vi­o­lently re­ar­rested Sowore at the Fed­eral High Court in Abuja on De­cem­ber 6, less than 24 hours af­ter they were com­pelled to re­lease him and his co-de­fen­dant, Olawale Bakare, by Jus­tice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in com­pli­ance with the bail ear­lier granted them by the judge.

The Sa­hara Re­porters pub­lisher was first ar­rested on Au­gust 3 and Bakare some days af­ter, fol­low­ing their calls for ‘Revo­lu­tion­now’ protests to de­mand good gov­er­nance in the coun­try.

They were sub­se­quently charged with trea­son­able felony, cy­ber­crime among other of­fences, with the pros­e­cu­tion ac­cus­ing them of try­ing to topple the regime of the Pres­i­dent, Ma­jor General Muham­madu Buhari (retd.).

But de­spite be­ing granted bail, the DSS had re­fused to re­lease them un­til De­cem­ber 5 when the mat­ter came up be­fore Jus­tice Ojukwu, who is­sued a 24-hour ul­ti­ma­tum for the DSS to re­lease them from illegal cus­tody.

The agency com­plied with the ul­ti­ma­tum is­sued by the judge but only for its op­er­a­tives to swoop on the ac­tivist at the court on De­cem­ber 6 in an at­tempt to re­ar­rest him.

They dis­rupted the pro­ceed­ings be­ing presided by Jus­tice Ojukwu and caused the judge to flee her court.

With lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers crit­i­cis­ing the DSS for the con­duct of its men, our cor­re­spon­dent learnt on Fri­day that the DSS had on De­cem­ber 11 sent a let­ter to the AGF’S of­fice, re­quest­ing to be given a fresh fiat to file fresh charges against Sowore.

The plan by the DSS was to file ter­ror­ism charges against the ac­tivist in or­der to be able to jus­tify his detention.

Sowore’s lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), told our cor­re­spon­dent on Fri­day that his client was grilled for four hours on ter­ror­ism-re­lated is­sues on Thurs­day.

But sources at the Min­istry of Jus­tice con­firmed to Satur­day PUNCH on Fri­day that the request for a fresh fiat by the DSS to en­able it to file fresh charges was turned down by the AGF’S of­fice on the grounds that the agency failed to jus­tify such request.

“The request by the DSS was reviewed at the min­istry and it was found out that there was noth­ing to jus­tify the is­suance of a fresh fiat, es­pe­cially when the gov­ern­ment is still strug­gling to wrig­gle it­self out of the back­lash of the first fiat is­sued to the agency to pros­e­cute the pend­ing charges,” one of the sources said.

Malami, through a state­ment by his Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Me­dia and Pub­lic Re­la­tions, Dr Umar Gwandu, said on Fri­day that a let­ter dated De­cem­ber 11, 2019 had been sent to the Di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the DSS, Yusuf Bichi, to “promptly for­ward all the case files con­cern­ing Sowore to his of­fice.”

The let­ter signed on be­half of the AGF by the So­lic­i­tor General of the Fed­er­a­tion, Mr Dayo Apata (SAN), was said to be re­spond­ing to an ear­lier Septem­ber 9, 2019 let­ter by the DG DSS.

Apata, who dou­bles as the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Fed­eral Min­istry of Jus­tice, was said to have stated in the let­ter that “the Hon­ourable At­tor­ney General of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, upon a fur­ther re­view of the case, has di­rected the im­me­di­ate takeover of the pros­e­cu­tion of all charges in re­spect of Omoy­ole Sowore by the Fed­eral Min­istry of Jus­tice in line with the pro­vi­sions of sec­tions 150(1) and 174 (1) (ac) of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion (as amended).”

The state­ment added that “the let­ter re­quested the Di­rec­tor to promptly for­ward all the case files in re­spect of Omoyele Sowore to the of­fice of the At­tor­ney-general of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice.”

It noted that the AGF had said “the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to re­spect­ing the sanc­tity of the rule of law, pro­tect­ing the virtues of hu­man rights and en­sur­ing speedy dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice.”

It added that the need to take over the case was “part of de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to probe emerg­ing is­sues re­lated to the re­cent im­broglio re­lated to Omoyele Sowore’s case and for speedy dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice.”

Re­act­ing on Fri­day, Sowore’s de­fence lawyer, Falana, urged the AGF to with­draw the charges against his clients by fil­ing a nolle pros­e­qui on the grounds of lack of ev­i­dence to get the de­fen­dants con­victed.

He said the in­abil­ity of the DSS to gather ev­i­dence to suc­cess­fully pros­e­cute the pend­ing charges was what prompted the agency to plan to file ter­ror­ism charges against Sowore.

He noted that de­spite the di­rec­tive by the AGF for the DSS to hands off the pros­e­cu­tion of his clients, op­er­a­tives of the agency still on Thurs­day in­ter­ro­gated Sowore for four hours, fish­ing for ev­i­dence with which to charge him with ter­ror­ism.

Ac­cord­ing to the lawyer, “the pros­e­cu­tion has re­fused to make the state­ments of the pros­e­cu­tion wit­nesses avail­able to the de­fen­dants as or­dered by the trial court be­cause the pros­e­cu­tion team had been ad­vised that Sowore can­not be con­victed on the ba­sis of the proof of ev­i­dence filed in court by the DSS”.

He stated, “Con­vinced that the pend­ing case would col­lapse like a pack of cards, the DSS is cur­rently fish­ing for ev­i­dence to nail Sowore.

“In spite of the di­rec­tive of the AGF to hand over the case, the DSS sub­jected Sowore to a four-hour in­ter­ro­ga­tion yes­ter­day (Thurs­day).

“The en­tire in­ter­ro­ga­tion per­tained to Sowore’s al­leged links with the pro­scribed Boko Haram sect, IPOB (In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra) and IMN (Is­lamic Move­ment in Nige­ria), which he ve­he­mently de­nied.

“At Sowore’s in­stance, a mem­ber of the le­gal de­fence team, Mr Abubakar Mar­shal, wit­nessed the marathon in­ter­ro­ga­tion. The plan is to charge Sowore with ter­ror­ism as a fol­low-up to the un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions of a pres­i­den­tial me­dia aide.

“In light of the fore­go­ing, we urge the AGF to file a nolle pros­e­qui to end the ma­cabre dance which has ex­posed the coun­try to avoid­able em­bar­rass­ment.”

Falana in­sisted that the AGF’S takeover of the pros­e­cu­tion of Sowore and his co-de­fen­dant was not a takeover be­cause “it was the AGF who filed the case on Septem­ber 20, 2019 and farmed it out to Dr Has­san Li­man, SAN.”

He added, “But in view of the vi­o­lent in­va­sion of the court by the armed op­er­a­tives of the DSS, the AGF has de­cided to sack ex­ter­nal pros­e­cu­tion team and have the case pros­e­cuted by the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion.”

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