Femi Falana (SAN), the counsel to Omoyele Sowore has reacted to the press release of the Department of State Services (DSS) in which it absolved itself of responsibility for the armed invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Falana, in his reaction to the claims by the security agency that Sowore’s arrest was “stage-managed” by his supporters in order to give the Service a bad name whilst also admitting at the same time that officers of the Service arrested Sowore outside the Court said the action of officials of the SSS at the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, was a desecration of the court.
WITHIN NIGERIA recalls that SSS officials invaded the court on December 6, after Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu adjourned the case of Sowore and his co-defendant, Bakare Olawale, facing alleged treasonable felony and forcibly rearrested the publisher of Sahara Reporters and disrupting the proceedings of the court on that day.
A statement by Falana on Sunday said: “Our attention has been drawn to the self-contradictory press release of the SSS in which an unsuccessful attempt was made to absolve itself of responsibility for the armed invasion of the Federal High Court, Abuja and the desecration of Court No 7 of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in particular, as well as the illegal, rearrest of Omoyele Sowore.”
Falana, who is the lead counsel to Sowore and his co-defendant, reminded the SSS the abominable desecration of Court by the SSS officials was covered live by domestic and international media outfits and journalists and that: “Some of whom were also direct victims of the gangsterism, barbarism and brutalisation displayed by officers of the Service”.
While pointing out that the SSS cannot extricate itself from the abominable acts of December 6, Falana said, when he informed the court that fresh charges were being filed against Sowore and Olawale and that they could be re-arrested, the prosecution, led by Hassan Liman (SAN) denied any such plan.
“As soon as the case was adjourned, the SSS pounced on Sowore and caused a disruption of the proceedings of the court. Having taken over the courtroom, Justice Ojukwu hurriedly rose and asked the Registrar to adjourn all other cases. After the learned trial judge had risen for the day, she summoned the heads of the prosecution and defence teams to her chambers.
“When the lead prosecutor, denied knowledge of the invasion of her court, she directed him to invite the head of the SSS team in the court. When challenged to justify the invasion of the court, the officer could not. He apologised to Justice Ojukwu on behalf of the SSS. The judge then directed the officer to withdraw the SSS operatives from the courtroom.
“The directive was complied with as the operatives withdrew from the courtroom but rushed out to join their colleagues who had taken over the entire courthouse.
“Notwithstanding that the SSS could not produce any warrant of arrest for Sowore, the defence team decided that I should accompany him to the SSS headquarters in view of his physical brutalisation inside the courtroom and the open threat to his life. I did and ensured that he was driven in my car to the SSS headquarters where I handed him over to the officers on duty. Thereafter, I requested a meeting with the head of the SSS but I was informed that he was not in the office,” Falana explained.
Accordingly to the senior lawyer: “It is utter poor reasoning to say that Sowore’s supporters were also those bent on injuring him in order to arrest him. The argument of the Service in this respect is as unfortunate and pitiable as the earlier argument of the Service in respect of the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi who was once accused of wanting to set ablaze his own house.”
Before submitting himself for arrest, Falana said Sowore had rightly demanded a warrant of arrest and detention order but the SSS operatives were unable to produce either.
Falana, therefore, called for the release of not only Sowore, in obedience to court orders, pending the verdict of the court in their trial as well as the release of all other political detainees, and criminal suspects who have been admitted to bail pending trial by competent courts.
He said, for the three decades that the country was ruled by military dictators, on no occasion did security operatives invade court premises to arrest political activists inside a courtroom, “Therefore, the bizarre harassment of courts cannot be tolerated under a democratically-elected government that claims to be operating under the rule of law”.