Sowore appeals court order keeping him in detention

The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore,.
The presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore,.

Detained activist and founder of SaharaReporters online newspaper, Omoyele Sowore, has challenged Thursday’s court order which allowed the Nigerian government to detain him for 45 days.

In a motion filed by Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, the activist is asking the Court of Appeal to direct a vacation of the remand order and discharge him of all allegations against him.

According to Mr Sowore’s motion which was based on 19 points, the motion ex-parte which resulted in his recent remand order negates his fundamental human rights, as well as the rules of the court.

Mr Sowore has also argued that the order contravenes the provisions of the constitution and was only made to legalise his “illegal” detention.

Mr Sowore, a key organiser of the #RevolutionNow protest, was arrested on August 3 after the Nigerian government accused him of attempting to create anarchy and acting in a manner described by government, as treasonous.

Although the protest which was scheduled to start on August 5 held in parts of Nigeria, dozens of protesters were arrested and some charged to court.

Other Lawyers React

Lawyers had reacted to Mr Sowore’s detention in interviews with PREMIUM TIMES.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozhekhome, described the court order as bad news for democracy and human rights.

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According to Mr Ozhekhome, the ex-parte application which was granted by the court was done in the absence of Mr Sowore.

Mr Ozhekhome in the statement wondered why such an order was made “in a haste.”

“What was the extreme urgency in the matter (usually the main ground for granting ex parte orders) that the judge could not order the government (who in any case was already detaining Sowore) to put him on notice?

“The court could also have ordered Sowore to show cause why he should not be detained for 45 days. I think it was discretion wrongly exercised, not having been exercised judicially and judiciously.”

According to the senior advocate, “Sections 39 to 43 of the Criminal Code and section 410 of the Penal Code which criminalise treason envision a dire situation where an intention to overthrow a government. Do these amount to treason or treasonable felony?

“Do you announce a “revolution”, if not for the mischief of some people deliberately reading the word literally rather than figuratively? Didn’t President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014 call for a “revolution” in Nigeria during campaigns for the presidency? Didn’t Chief Bola Tinubu in 2011 call for a “revolution”? Were they interpreted literally to mean the actual overthrow of the then government of President Goodluck Jonathan? Didn’t Nigerians understand this to mean a peaceful change of government through the ballot box? Why are we suddenly stretching it?

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“Didn’t the APC leadership, including Sowore himself, literally shut down Nigeria in January 2012, during massive protests against the attempt by the then Jonathan administration to remove so-called oil subsidy? Did this government not later hike it from 97 naira to its present 140 naira a litre? So much for duplicity and double standards!!!

Mr Ozhekhome said he believes Nigeria is practising dictatorship and absolutism under the thin veneer of democracy in the country.

“There is nothing democratic about the present government’s genre of democracy. It is a complete farce and total ruse. God help Nigeria, even as the people should gird their loins for tougher days ahead.

“Nigerians should protest and demonstrate peacefully on Nigerian streets against the harsh and anti-people policies of this government. Not to do so is to cheaply capitulate to coercive intimidation and abdication of their sovereignty to their very elected and selected agents in government.”

Johnmary Jideobi, an Abuja-based lawyer who also spoke in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, described the situation as worrisome.

“We must immediately point out that there is no question whether or not the Federal High Court has the powers to make the detention order is made at the request of the State Security Service (SSS).

“The powers of the court to make the said order is neither in doubt nor recondite.

“However, being an order made ex-parte, the person against whom the order was made is at liberty to challenge the basis of the said order and entreat the Honourable Court to vacate same.

This, according to Mr Jideobi would afford the court the opportunity of a plenary hearing into the merits or otherwise of the SSS request.

Another lawyer, Monday Ejeh, said that the remand order was not a violation of known Nigerian laws.

“Let me state without equivocation that the detention order made by the Court upon the DSS is in order. Reasons are that the planned revolution by Sowore needs to be properly investigated.

According to Mr Ejeh, “Mr Sowore as a citizen has a right to protest if he feels to but added that right has some limits: one of which is that while a protest is permissible, a revolution is not permissible.

“Yes, every citizen’s rights have limits. No one right is absolute. In exercising one’s rights one must be careful not to do anything that will affect the rights of others.

“It could be argued that Sowore merely issued empty threats but you see until investigations are conducted and this is shown to be the case, one cannot say so.”

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