The lawyer representing the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, says the State Security Service (SSS) cannot report Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for granting bail to the publisher.
In a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday afternoon, Femi Falana said Justice Taiwo only exercised his discretion judicially in an application for the bail of a citizen.
The senior counsel also said the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not entertain the agency’s application to extend Mr Sowore’s detention.
The Nation newspaper on Saturday had reported that the SSS was set to take Mr Taiwo to the NJC for granting Mr Sowore bail. The paper quoted unnamed sources.
In his reaction, Mr Falana said the report by the newspaper was misleading as the quotes in the report were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources.
Mr Falana urged Nigerians to disregard the report.
“I have since confirmed that the fictitious report is a figment of the fecund imagination of the writer, Mr Akuntunde. Hence, the report and the quotes therein were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources,” Mr Falana said.
He described the report as a desperate bid to divert public attention from the contemptuous conduct of the SSS, which he said hurriedly pressurised the Federal High Court to assign the case for the arraignment of Mr Sowore.
“From the information at our disposal, the report was designed by The Nation to blackmail and intimidate the Judges of the Federal High Court with respect to the trial of Mr Sowore.”
“I wish to state without any fear of contradiction, that the Federal High Court is competent to admit a person charged with a capital offence to bail by virtue of section 161 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”
Mr Falana said Mr Sowore has not been charged with capital offence contrary to the position of the SSS and The Nation newspaper.
“Treasonable felony is not a capital offence under section 41 of the Criminal Code. Even under the most brutal dictatorial regimes in Nigeria, our courts did not hesitate to uphold the fundamental right of the victims of repression to personal liberty, including those who were charged with treasonable felony,” he added.
“Having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case, the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not even entertain our application to quash the order for Mr Sowore’s detention for 45 days.”
Mr Falana said it was due to the fact that the SSS counsel, Godwin Agbadua, withdrew his motion ex parte for an order to further detain Mr Sowore for additional 20 days that led to the judge granting him bail.
“To that extent, the National Judicial Council has no power to sanction a judicial officer for exercising his/her discretion judicially and judiciously in an application for the bail of a citizen. In other words, since the NJC is not an appellate court it cannot review the order for the conditional release of Mr Sowore from illegal custody.
” Instead of joining the global campaign for the release of Mr Sowore from illegal custody as ordered by the federal high court, Mr Akintunde 1 of The Nation newspaper has colluded with the forces of reaction to intimidate the Judiciary. But it is a mission that is bound to fail as no dictator has ever succeeded in cowing the courts and the Nigerian people to submission.”
PREMIUM TIMES called the SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, to comment on the issue but he responded by saying he would call the reporter back.
He was yet to do so at the time of this report.
The Federal High Court in Abuja made the order for Mr Sowore’s release on September 24 after ruling that there was no legal basis for the continued detention of the defendant, since the SSS withdrew its application to extend the detention of Mr Sowore.
Following the failure of the SSS to comply with the order of the court, Mr Falana’s chambers obtained a fresh order directing the secret police to release Mr Sowore or risk having its director-general in prison on Thursday.
Mr Sowore and another defendant, Olawale Bakare, are facing trial on seven counts, for alleged treasonable felony, fraud and cyberstalking among others.
Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3 and has been in detention since then.
There have been growing calls for his release, with local and international bodies condemning President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the apparent disregard of court orders in Mr Sowore’s case and that of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.