Some Nigerian lawyers on Thursday condemned the continued detention of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, after a court on Tuesday ordered his immediate release.
The government has continued to hold Mr Sowore despite receiving an affidavit of compliance to the court order directing his release on Wednesday morning.
Marshal Abubakar, a lawyer with the chambers of Mr Sowore’s lead counsel, Femi Falana, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday evening confirmed that they are yet to hear from the SSS, after officials asked them to return on Thursday to “discuss with the SSS DG,” Yusuf Bichi.
This was despite the court order which had instructed an immediate release of the respondent.
Mr Sowore’s lawyers submitted documents indicating full compliance with the order for Mr Sowore’s release at the SSS office where it was received by an official, Ayuba Adam, at 10.08 a.m on Wednesday.
Mr Sowore’s lawyers left the SSS office over 12 hours after fulfilling their end of the September 24 decision of the court, without the SSS doing the same.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday in a telephone interview, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Simon Ameh, said the SSS should release him (Sowore) immediately since the court has ordered.
“They should obey the court order. If they have other cases against him, they can arrest him afresh. That one which they took him to court, they should release him immediately.”
Another lawyer, Monday Ejeh, said the continuous detention of Mr Sowore is a very pathetic one.
“There is an unholy alliance between security agencies and some members of the judiciary which had encouraged situations such as this,” he said.
Mr Ejeh said what the SSS has done is wrong in law because “the same judge that granted them the order to remand him which they complied with, has ordered for his release and they are refusing.”
He said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 did not make any room for one “to detain and keep people in such cruel manners until they are arraigned, he should be left to go.”
“A suspect is to be served a new charge at least seven days before trial commences,” he added.
Mr Ejeh said the judiciary needs to take desperate measures and as such find a way of harmonising court orders.
“The problem is not the executive alone, the judiciary is an independent body and they need to rise to the situation and say no to this impunity.”
In her reaction, human rights advocate, Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga, said “It is a flagrant disobedience and a disregard for the rule of law which we have seen to be consistent under this government. This is not good for our jurisprudence and democracy and it is a total abuse of our Constitution.
“When governments refuse to comply with the direction of the courts, it is more or less like stating that the law and the Judiciary have lost their potency and are practically suspended for the rule of autocracy and totalitarianism,” Mrs Ogunlana-Nkanga said.
Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi, who cited a judgement of the Court of Appeal, said a court order “whether valid or not” must be obeyed until it is set aside.
Mr Jideobi said court orders are legal and moral obligation which must be complied with because “what makes a great country is adherence to the rule of law. Even in hell, there is order and discipline,” he added.
The lawyer quoted a judgment of the Supreme Court in another case as stating that obedience to court orders “is fundamental to the good order, peace and stability of the Nigerian nation”.
“Disobedience to an order of court should, therefore, be seen as an offence directed not against the personality of the Judge who made the Order, but as a calculated act of subversion of peace, law, and order in Nigeria society,” he explained.