The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the State Security Service (SSS) to pay Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, N2 million over the unlawful seizure of his mobile phone in 2019 at the point of his arrest.
Delivering judgement in the human rights suit filed by Mr Sowore, the judge, Anwuli Chikere, also ordered the SSS to immediately release the iPhone and a cash of N10,000 which were alleged to have been forcefully taken away from him without court warrant.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Sowore had, through his lawyer, Funmi Falana, alleged that the operatives of the SSS, on August 3, 2019 at a hotel in Lagos, forcefully took away his iPhones and the sum of N10, 000 when he was arrested on allegations bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.
He was arrested on the basis of his plan to lead a protest, tagged, #RevolutionNow, against the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over its alleged maladministration in general.
The judge ordered the SSS, the 1st respondent in the case, to also tender an apology to Mr Sowore in two national dailies within two months.
Ms Chikere described the forceful seizure of the personal property of the publisher of SaharaReporters as “illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and gross violation of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.”
She said the SSS ought to have obtained court order before the confiscation of his belongings and that the seizure can no be regarded as “temporary” since 2019.
The judge also held that the claim by the SSS that his phones were still under investigation since 2019 over his alleged link with terrorists was untenable, illegal and unconstitutional.
Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Mrs Falana, while reacting to the judgement, expressed happiness and described it as victory for justice.
NAN reports that the SSS had, on December 1, told the court that it was still investigating the mobile phones of Mr Sowore still under its custody.
The security outfit stated that contrary to the allegations, the phones were “recovered” during his arrest and not seized.
The agency added that the phones were still being investigated for links to terrorism.
But Falana had challenged the SSS on the legality of the seizure without a valid court order.
She urged the judge to dismiss the preliminary objections and order the return of Sowore’s phones as well as pay N20 million in damages to the applicant.
Mrs Chikere dismissed the defence put forward by SSS and granted Mr Sowore’s prayers in her judgement on Wednesday.
Mr Sowore was first arrested on August 3, 2019, for planning to organise a protest tagged: “#RevolutionNow”.
The SSS continued to detain Mr Sowore despite court orders for his release.
He was subsequently charged to court on charges of treasonable felony, among others.
Despite the trial court granting fresh bail to Mr Sowore, the SSS still refused to release him until pressure continued to mount on the Buhari administration from within and outside Nigeria.
He was charged alongside his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, before Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
NAN reports that the case has since been reassigned to Bolaji Olajuwon following Mrs Ojukwu’s transfer to Calabar Division of the court.(NAN)
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