Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Tuesday, faulted the claim by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), that he was handicapped to order the release of Omoyele Sowore from the custody of the Department of State Service.
Malami had said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Dr. Umar Gwandu, on Monday, that he could not take any action on the ‘RevolutionNow’ protests convener’s continued detention without recourse to the court and rule of law.
But in a statement on Tuesday replying Malami, Falana said, having taken over the prosecution of and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, the AGF was duty-bound to ask the DSS to release Sowore from its “illegal” custody.
Falana, the lead defence counsel for the two men, said Malami could not wash his hands off the “illegal detention” of the Sahara Reporters publisher like the biblical Pontius Pilate.
Urging the minister to “direct” the DSS to release Sowore “without any further delay”, he added that section 287 of the Constitution had imposed legal obligations on all authorities, including the AGF to comply with the decisions of all competent courts such as the bail granted Sowore by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He stated, “Since Mr. Malami has taken over the case of FRN v Sowore & Another, he is deemed to possess ‘the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him’.
“Therefore, he cannot like Pontius Pilate wash off his hands with respect to the illegal detention of Sowore by the State Security Service. Furthermore, since section 287 of the Constitution has imposed a legal obligation on all authorities and persons in Nigeria to comply with the decisions of all competent courts the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Malami, is duty-bound to direct the State Security Service to release Sowore on bail in compliance with the valid and subsisting order of the federal high court.”
Operatives of the DSS had violently rearrested Sowore at the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, barely 24 hours of releasing him and Bakare from custody that lasted over four months.
Try were first arrested in August and were later in September charged with treasonable felony among other offences, for calling for the ‘RevolutionNow’ protests, which the Federal Government interpreted to be a call for an overthrow of the regime of President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
A judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, had earlier in September ordered Sowore’s release from custody after the expiration of the 45 days period he permitted the security agency to keep him for investigation on allegations of terrorism activities.
The DSS refused to comply with the order.
The agency also snubbed court’s bail granted to both Sowore and Bakare by Justice Ojuwkwu after they were arraigned before the judge.
But following the 24 hour ultimatum issued to the DSS by the judge on December 5, the two men were released from custody, but only for the operatives of the agency to invade the court on December 6, disrupting proceedings and causing the judge to flee her court, to rearrest Sowore.