The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday asked the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, to give a reason why it should not make an order sending him to prison.
Court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday stated that this was a result of the SSS disobeying its orders to release the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
The SSS later on Tuesday released Mr Sowore on the order of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
One of the court documents was tiltled: “Notice to show cause why the order of your committal to prison should not be made.
“Pursuant to Order 35 Rules 1(1) 2 and 3 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, Order IX, Rule (13) of the judgement and (enforcement) Rules, Section 308, Section 72 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act, 2004.
“Take notice that this Court shall be moved on the…… day of……..2019 to order for your committal to prison for having neglected to obey and willfully flouting and desecrating the orders made on November, 2019,9 per Hon. Justice Ijeoma 0jukwu mandating you to release the Defendants/Applicant and this Court has been informed that as at today, December 17, 2019, the first Defendant/Applicant is still in your custody.
“And Further take notice that you are hereby required to attend the court on the first-mentioned day to show cause why an order for your committal should not be made.”
On two occasions, the court had directed the SSS to release Mr Sowore or the agency would be guilty of contempt and its DG liable to be committed to prison.
“Take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the order of the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja made on the 6 November 2019, which ordered you to release the Defendants/Applicants in Suit No; FHC/ABJ/CR/235/2019 forthwith, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison. A copy of the said order of court earlier served on you is hereby annexed for your on-the-spot reference.
“This court has been informed that even as at today, Tuesday the 12 November 2019 you are yet to comply with the lawful order of the Federal High Court by refusing to release the Defendants/Applicants namely: Omoyele Stephen Sowore and Olawale Adebayo Bakare (MANDATE), in your custody. You are hereby directed to comply with the court order forthwith or you will be guilty of contempt of court,” the document read.
The Federal High Court had ordered the immediate release of Messrs Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, from prison on October 21.
Mr Sowore, who was arrested on August 3 by SSS for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow, was granted bail for the second time on October 18.
A previous bail granted the defendant on September 24 was not complied with by the SSS.
The two accused are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.
There have been growing calls for the release of the accused persons, with many condemning the government of President Buhari for their arrests and charges.
Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, defended his client’s choice of the word “revolution” for the August 5 protest that later held in some parts of the country.
The lawyer said even the Supreme Court does not regard a revolution as a lawful offence.
“Even a coup that sustains the statuesque has been said not to be a revolution by the Supreme Court,” he said.
Mr Falana said the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari staged protests after they lost previous elections.
“Buhari called for a revolution in 2011 like that of Egypt which was evidently violent.
“Only in 1948 was someone charged for staging a protest. And the charge was sedition,” he said.
Mr Falana asked the court to grant Mr Sowore bail on self recognizance.
He said various courts had decided on the rights of Nigerians to peaceful protest and that the court had ruled during a case instituted by Mr Buhari’s party that a police permit was unnecessary for the conduct of protests in a free society.
Mr Falana said the prosecution had argued that Mr Sowore may jump bail like the separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu. He, however, argued that the allegations against Mr Sowore do not support that claim.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, he said the federal government has ordered the release of Mr Sowore and that of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
“The two defendants are enjoined to observe the terms of their bail and refrain from engaging in any activity that is inimical to public peace and national security as well as their ongoing trial which will run its course in accordance with the laws of the land,” Mr Malami said.
Mr Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser, has been held for about four years despite several orders that he should be released on bail. He is being prosecuted for corruption and possession of arms.