UPDATED: Osinbajo, Fashola, other lawyers in Buhari’s cabinet ‘silent’ on SSS invasion of court, Sowore’s treatment

Vice President Yemi-Osinbajo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

At least, seven members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, who are lawyers, have not publicly condemned the illegal detention of an activist, Omoyele Sowore, by the State Security Service (SSS). Majority of them have simply kept mum, publicly, on the matter.

They have also refused to publicly comment on Friday’s invasion of a federal court by SSS officials, a move for which the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has demanded the suspension of Yusuf Bichi, the Director General of the SSS.

Mr Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, and an activist, Olawale Bakare, are charged with treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and abusing President Muhammadu Buhari.

On two occasions, the court ruled that the duo be granted bail, but the SSS failed to obey the court orders.

Mr Sowore, who was arrested on August 3 by the SSS for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow, was granted bail for the second time on October 18.

SSS did not respect a previous bail granted the defendant on September 24.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Thursday ordered that both men be released within 24 hours.
The SSS, in a bid to claim to have complied with the order, released both men Thursday night before re-arresting them Friday morning in court.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how armed SSS officials stormed the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to rearrest Messrs Sowore and Bakare.

The armed officials went into the court premises to violently apprehend the activists, the first time in the nation’s history.

The SSS, which is under the purview of the president, is notorious for disobeying court orders.

It has continued to detain a former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki and Shi’ite’s leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, despite court orders granting them bail.

None of the seven lawyers in Mr Buhari’s cabinet has publicly condemned the disobedience of court orders generally including in the case of Mr Sowore or the desecration of the court on Friday in the bid to rearrest the activist.

This newspaper looks at seven lawyers in Mr Buhari’s cabinet and their legal career.

Lai Mohammed

Mr Buhari’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, is also a lawyer. He attended the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Law School, and in 1989 co-founded the legal firm of Edu & Mohammed as a senior partner.

As the spokesperson of the opposition prior to 2015, Mr Mohammed frequently criticised then PDP government’s excesses and assured Nigerians the APC, if voted to power, will do things differently. Since becoming minister, Mr Mohammed has failed to publicly rebuke his government for its many wrongs and violations of the rights of Nigerians.

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Abubakar Malami

Unlike the others, Nigeria’s Attorney-General, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has repeatedly spoken in support of the disobedience to court orders.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria has argued that court orders can be ignored on matters of national security which he argues supersedes individual freedom.

Mr Abubakar graduated from Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto in 1991, where he studied law and was called to the bar in 1992.

As a legal practitioner, Mr Abubakar served in various capacities including being a counsel and magistrate in Kebbi State and as National Legal Adviser of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Officials Keep Mum

PREMIUM TIMES’ efforts to reach some of the government officials were unsuccessful. Mr Keyamo, and Laolu Akande, Mr Osinbajo’s spokesperson, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to them.

However, the spokesperson for Mr Fashola, Hakeem Bello, in a telephone interview on Saturday morning, declined to speak on the matter. He referred enquiries on his principal’s stance to the attorney-general, Mr Malami, who has repeatedly justified the actions of the SSS.

Dangerous situation – Lawyer

Mike Ozekhome, a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said ”the quietness of the six cabinet members in the face of human rights violations, means danger for the citizens”.

Mr Ozekhome spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday afternoon.

He noted that most of the lawyers highlighted by this newspaper ”are not ordinary lawyers but senior colleagues in the profession”.

He, however, said ”it is hard to criticise the government when one is part of governance.”

“That is why some of have refused to go into governance. Not because it does not afford the opportunity to serve the people but because we can serve the masses from different perspectives.”

He lamented the impunity and total violation of the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act by the current government.

Mr Ozekhome called on the Nigerian Bar Association, Body of Benchers, rights activists and major stakeholders ”to stand against impunity encouraged by President Buhari”.


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