A magistrate’s court in Mpape, Abuja, on Wednesday granted bail to five ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ protesters who were arrested at at Dunamis International Gospel Centre Church in Abuja.
Ben Manasseh, Anene Udoka, Henry Nwodo, Samuel Larry and Samuel Gabriel were arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) on July 4 for wearing T-shirts with the inscription, ‘Buhari-Must-Go’, to the church.
The Federal High Court in Abuja earlier on Monday ordered the SSS to release them unconditionally.
But instead of complying with the order, SSS hurriedly arraigned them on charges of disturbance of public peace against to earn a face-saving justification for keeping them in custody.
Brought before the magistrate for arraignment on Wednesday, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their lawyer subsequently applied for their bail.
Ruling, the magistrate, Mohammed Zubairu, granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N500, 000 with a surety each.
Other conditions for the release of the defendants imposed by the magistrate include presentation of passport photographs and a means of identification of the sureties.
The sureties who must be residents of Abuja must alao have eliable means of livelihood.
Mr Zubairu said he granted bail to the defendants because the five charges preferred against the were bailable offences, adding that they had been held by the SSS since July 4 without trial.
He subsequently adjourned till August 23 for trial.
Earlier, the SSS arraigned the defendants on five counts which they pleaded not guilty to.
In the case marked CR/MPP/25/2021, the Nigerian secret police accused the defendants of conspiracy to disturb public peace, an offence it said is contrary to Section 96 of the Penal Code Law.
The he SSS said the defendants did disturb the public peace at Dunamis Church in Abuja on July 4, and that they “engaged in intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of public peace.”
In the fifth count, the spy agency accused the defendants of constituting themselves into “vagabond,” an offence contrary to section 405 of the Penal Code Law.
Arguments over bail application
While arguing the bail application of the defendants, defence lawyer, Tope Temokun, said his clients had only been notified of the arraignment on July 27 (Tuesday), while the SSS had filed the charges since July 19.
Mr Temokun drew the magistrate’s attention to a pending order of the Federal High Court, which had compelled the secret police to immediately release the defendants.
ALSO READ: Illegal Detention: ‘Buhari-Must-Go’ campaigners arrested at Dunamis Church sue Buhari, pastor, SSS
The defence lawyer argued that the charges upon which the defendants were arraigned breached the provisions of Section 396 (2) and 196 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) as well as Section 36 (6) Paragraph (a) of the 1999 constitution.
He further argued that the particulars of the alleged offences against the defendants were not attached to the charge sheet, urging the court to grant his clients to bail in liberal terms.
On her part, counsel for the SSS, I. Onotu who signed the charge sheet informed the court that the defendants had only been informed of their arraignment on Tuesday, July 27.
As a result, Mrs Onotu apologised to the defendants for the late service of the charges.
“We are sorry for the late service of the charges on the defendants,, and we will not be opposing their bail application, ” the SSS lawyer told the court.
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