A lawyer, Femi Falana, on Friday, described the court invasion and the rearrest of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, in court, as ”extremely embarrassing.”
Mr Falana, who is the publisher’s lead lawyer, said ”this is the first time an arrest is being effected in a courtroom in the country.”
The SSS operatives, who stormed the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, rearrested Mr Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, less than 24 hours after they were released on the orders of the court.
Before he was released, the activist had spent 124 days in detention despite being granted bail.
The SSS operatives pulled their guns in a show of force causing confusion in the court and premises.
The senior counsel, who spoke in an interview with Channels TV, said the action of the SSS ”was extremely embarrassing because it has never happened in Nigeria”.
The lawyer said steps will be taken within the confines of the law to ensure Mr Sowore’s release.
“The atmosphere was very rowdy, but I insisted that the arrest could not be carried out within the precinct of the court,” Mr Falana said. ”He was going to be arrested outside the premises but there was a crowd that resisted the arrest, but I appealed to everybody and asked Sowore to jump into my car and so we drove to the office of the SSS because they said he will just answer a few questions, but now he is being detained.”
The lawyer said, “We are going to take steps under the law by asking for his release again since they are claiming this is a fresh arrest.”
Mr Falana added that the SSS is yet to disclose to the public what the new charges are.
“Nobody has disclosed yet what his charges are; he couldn’t have committed any other offence because he has been detained for the past four months unless the SSS wants to tell the whole world that he committed this fresh offence while in their custody,” he said.
According to him, “this morning, the SSS lawyers and the lawyers of the Attorney-General reported to the court that the order of the court had been complied with and I confirmed because our clients were released last night.
“As soon as the court adjourned the matter to February next year, the SSS operatives pounced on the court, disrupted proceeding and then attempted to arrest our clients even in the web of the court. That was extremely embarrassing because it has never happened in Nigeria where you enter a court to arrest anybody, even an alleged coup plotter.”
Also, in a Facebook post, a member of Messrs Sowore and Bakare legal team, Abdul Mahmud, said ”the legal team knew SSS operatives were coming for their clients”.
“We knew there were plans to re-arrest Sowore and Bakare when contacts whispered to me as I was leaving the courtroom for another courtroom to move his human rights application motion that fresh charges are being filed,” he said. ”Falana was already standing to address the court when I returned to him and told him of the plans, which he duly informed the court. Surprisingly, Liman SAN, who leads the prosecution, sidestepped the information because he was in cahoots with the dog-whisperer.”
“Sowore was eventually taken away – on one condition: that he will be taken by his lawyers to the gangsters in his own car. No more. The dogs barked. Come and see the way they left the court- like a scene taken out of the Western movie.”
He also said “the nonsense I saw today in court never happened in my years of practising as a lawyer under two terrible dictatorship. When I was snatched by the DMI in 1996, they waited outside the High Court Ijebu-Ode and trailed me to the CLO South West Ijebu Ode. I had a fair number of brushes with the state but what I saw today leaves me with two impressions: 1) The ‘dogs’ are intent on killing Sowore; 2) Dictatorship is here.”
Meanwhile, a Kano based lawyer, Tohwo Oseruvwoja, also condemned the action by the SSS act.
“Comrades is [sic] painful to note that the actions of DSS today at the Federal High Court, Abuja, have successfully graduated that security institution from the manageable syndrome of dictatorship to a crystal terrorist of the masses.
“Dictators are manageable but when an institution of government disregards the order of the court in front of the court, before the court and in the presence of the court, that institution is an outlaw group,” he said.
Messrs Sowore and Bakare have been in the custody of the SSS since August. They were arrested for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow.
The SSS refused to release both men despite two separate court orders that ordered their release.
Ijeoma Ojukwu, the federal judge handling their treasonable felony trial, insisted that her November 6 order must be complied with and they must be released from custody ”or senior officials of the SSS would be held in criminal contempt”.
Before the latest arrest, the SSS released them and paid the N100, 000 fine imposed on the service.
The SSS is notorious for flouting court orders without being openly reprimanded by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is serving his second term as a civilian leader.
The head of the SSS reports only to the Nigerian president, a former military head of state.