The scheduled trial of five ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ activists arrested in Abuja in July was stalled at a magistrate’s court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, due to the absence of the State Security Service’s prosecution team on Monday.
All the five defendants -Ben Manasseh, Anene Udoka, Henry Nwodo, Samuel Larry and Samuel Gabriel (a blind saxophonist) – were present in court, but the hearing could not proceed because of the prosecuting lawyers’ absence.
Defence lawyer, Tope Temokun, said on his Facebook wall after the proceedings that he “applied that the court should strike out the charge” but “the court declined.”
He said the magistrate decided to give SSS’ lawyers “another adjournment to see if they would come.”
Taunting the spy agency about the perceived vanity of the criminal case filed against the defendants, Mr Temokun said, “They must summon the courage to come and prove to the world how wearing BUHARI MUST GO T-shirts is a crime under our law.”
“We are waiting and we are ready,” he said.
The defendants were arrested at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja, for wearing T-shirts with ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ inscription on July 4.
The agency held them in custody without charge for weeks.
Their lawyer, Mr Temokun, subsequently filed separate fundamental rights enforcement suits to secure their release at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
In a preliminary ruling on the applications filed by the lawyer, the judge, Anuli Chikere, ordered the detainees’ release on July 26.
But, instead of obeying the order, SSS rushed to a chief magistrate’s court in Mpape, Abuja, on July 28, to arraign them on charges of disturbance of peace.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Mohammed Zubairu, the chief magistrate, before whom the defendants were arraigned, granted them bail in the sum of N500,000 each.
But further demonstrating its disregard for court orders, the spy agency refused to release the detainees despite being notified that they had met their bail conditions.
Mr Temokun, bent on enforcing the order of court releasing his clients, commenced a contempt suit seeking to have the SSS director-general, Yusuf Bichi, jailed for his disobedience to the court order.
The agency reluctantly released them on August 3.
The case was moved from Mpape to Wuse Zone 2 in Abuja for continuation.
But the prosecution led by I. Onotu at the previous proceedings was absent on Monday.
The magistrate then adjourned the trial till September 20 in anticipation that SSS’ prosecution team would turn up for the case.
Pending human rights enforcement suits
The five activists still have separate fundamental rights enforcement suits they instituted against SSS at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the five activists filed separate suits for the enforcement of their fundamental rights at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
They each asked for N10million in damages against the defendants comprising, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the pastor-in-charge of Dunamis church where the plaintiffs were arrested, Paul Enenche.
The plaintiffs were arrested at the church for wearing shirts with the ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ inscription, a sign associated with activists calling for President Buhari’s removal on the account of his alleged incompetence in the handling of the worsening security and economic situations in the country.
Their lawyer, Mr Temokun, argued in the separate suits, filed on July 8 that his clients are entitled to “fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression and the press, right to freedom from discrimination and right to personal liberty.”
According to him, the rights are guaranteed under sections 35, 38, 39 and 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria constitution and under Articles 1, 2, 6, 8 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.”
They are “sacred rights which can only be curtailed in accordance with the law,” Mr Temokun wrote in the court documents.
He also said the “arrest and continued detention” of his clients “for wearing a clothing apparel with an inscription of ‘BUHARI MUST GO!’ without a bail or arraignment, by men and officers under the command of the 1st, 2nd and 4th respondents (SSS, SSS boss, and Dunamis church’s pastor) “constitute a very oppressive violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights.”
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...