Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria and counsel to SaharaReporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, says officials of the Department of State Services, DSS, are guilty of desecration of court.
The secret police had invaded the federal high court in Abuja on Friday to rearrest Omoyele Sowore, convener of RevolutionNow Movement, barely 24 hours after he was released on the order of the court.
Video clips making the rounds showed the chaos inside the courtroom where Sowore was pinned down by a man alleged to be an operative of the DSS while he (Sowore) was surrounded by his supporters who fought back.
The DSS has, however, denied invading the court. The service said it did not attempt arresting Sowore inside the court, alleging that his supporters only “stage-managed the drama” to bring the service to disrepute.
Justifying the rearrest of Sowore, the DSS said he “resorted to acts inimical to security”, adding that it remains a law-abiding agency.
But responding, Falana said immediately the case was adjourned, DSS operatives “pounced on Sowore and caused a disruption of the proceedings of the court”.
He said armed DSS operatives who disguised in lawyer’s outfit were inside the courtroom.
Falana added that Ijeoma Ojukwu, the presiding judge, summoned the head of the DSS team in her chambers and asked him to justify the invasion of the court after which he reportedly offered an apology before he was asked to withdraw his men from the courtroom.
“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,” Falana said.
“When the lead prosecutor, Dr. Liman Hassan SAN 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 house.
“Though, ordinarily, officers of the Service do not wear any uniform, on the 6th day of December, 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 No. 7 were identifiable by their roles and acts of seizing Sowore and pinning him down.”
Falana said the DSS could not provide a warrant of arrest for Sowore, insisting that the rearrest of his client was illegal.
“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,” he said.
“In rationalizing the re-arrest of Sowore, which is denied in the same Press statement, the Serivce alleged that Sowore held metings 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?”
Falana, therefore, called on the DSS to release Sowore and “other political detainees” pending the verdict of the court in their trial.