Femi Falana (SAN), lawyer to rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, has said the State Security Services apologised to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja for invading her courtroom to arrest Sowore without a warrant.
Falana said while the invasion was going on, Justice Ojukwu summoned himself and counsel to the Sss, Hasan Liman (SAN), to her chamber to explain what was going on.
Liman, he said, in turn called the head of the operation, who apologised to Justice Ojukwu and agreed to withdraw his men from the premises, adding that this never happened.
Falana’s full account in a statement on Sunday reads, “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 Judicial Division, in general, and the desecration of Court 7 of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in particular as well as the illegal rearrest of Omoyele Sowore.
“First, pretending to forget that the abominable desecration of the Federal High Court was covered live by domestic and international media outfits and journlists, some of whom were also direct victims of the gangsterism, barbarism and brutalisation displayed by officers of the Service on Friday, the Service has conducted “eyewitness” accounts of what transpired with the aim of showing that officers of the Service were not involved in the rearrest of Sowore.
“Second, the Service argues on the one hand that the arrest of Sowore 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.
“Having declared that the Service arrested Sowore “outside the court”, despite the “stage managing” argument, what the Nigerian people want to see happen is the immediate release of Sowore, pending his trial as ordered by the court.
Indubitable Facts Confirming Desecration Of Court And Rearrest By DSS
However, the following facts underscore our insistence that the Service was solely responsible for the desecration of the hallowed chambers of the court.
By the advantage of information technology, the whole world has placed responsibility for the gangsteric desecration of the court on the SSS.
The SSS cannot extricate itself from the abominable acts of December 6, 2019.
When I informed the court that fresh charges were being filed against our clients and that they could be re-arrested, the prosecution 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 court room vi et armis, 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, Liman Hassan 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 court.
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 for a meeting with the head of the SSS but I was informed that he was not in the office.
Though, ordinarily, officers of the Service do not wear any uniform, on December 6, some of them were in mufti, many were not only armed but also masked while others disguised in lawyer’s black and white suit.
Regardless of the form of appearance, the officers of the Service inside Court 7 were identifiable by their roles and acts of seizing Sowore and pinning him down. It is an 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.
If Sowore’s supporters subjected him to such brutalisation in the presence of SSS operatives, why were they not arrested for contravening the provisions of the Anti Torture Act, 2017? Or were the SSS operatives expecting the supporters of a defendant wanted by the state to kill him in their presence?
Before submitting himself for arrest, Sowore had rightly demanded for a warrant of arrest and detention order but the SSS operatives were unable to produce either.
On Rationalisation Of Rearrest By DSS
In rationalising the rearrest of Sowore, which is denied in the same press statement, the Service alleged that Sowore held meetings with some people. Assuming without conceding that Sowore held meetings with some people in Transcorp Hotel as alleged by the SSS, why did the prosecution not inform the trial court that the defendant had breached his bail condition?
On Claim Of SSS Being Law-abiding
The SSS says it is a law-abiding institution but why did it refuse to comply with the order of Justice Taiwo Taiwo to release Sowore? Why did the SSS threaten to report the judge to the NJC for granting bail to Sowore?
Why did the SSS subject the order of Justice Ojukwu for the release of Sowore to its own approval by asking the sureties already verified by the judge to report themselves to it? Why did the SSS wait for the 24-hour ultimatum issued by the trial judge before releasing Sowore and Bakare?
Incidentally, the prosecutor, Liman Hassan, was the counsel to the defendant in the case of FRN vs Air Commodore Mohammed. In that case, the order of Justice Nnamdi Dimgba for the release of the defendant on bail was flouted by the SSS. As if that was not enough, the SSS invaded the home of the judge on October 8, 2016 when the houses of judges accused of corruption were raided. Even though I have never appeared before Justice Dimgba, I have always known him as a judge of impeccable integrity. So, I challenged the SSS for painting an incorruptible judge with the brush of shame. It was after my intervention that the NJC gave the judge a clean bill of health.
Thereafter, the judge was compelled to withdraw from the case. The SSS thought that it had won but it was a phyrric victory. Thus, Justice John Tsoho (current Chief Judge of the Federal High Court) to whom the case was reassigned, reiterated the orders of Justice Dimgba and proceeded to rule that trial would not commence in the case until the defendant was released from custody. It was at that stage that the SSS complied with the order of the court.
In light of the foregoing, we reiterate our demand for the release of not only Sowore in obedience to court orders, pending the verdict of the court in their trial, we equally call for the release of all other political detainees and criminal suspects who have been admitted to bail pending trial by competent courts.
Finally, it is common knowledge that this country was ruled by military dictators for about three decades. 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 democratic government that claims to operate under the rule of law.