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SSS, Sowore and matters arising

The recent re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore by men of the State Security Service, SSS, has continued to generate arguments amongst Nigerians, with many questioning the legality of such an action as well as its implication for the judiciary.

 

 

 

 

 

Sowore, who had been in custody of the SSS since August 2, 2019, was charged with seven counts of treasonable felony, money laundering and cybercrime offences.

Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, were accused of conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of section 516 of the Criminal Code Act by allegedly staging a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019 aimed at ‘forcefully removing’ President Muhammadu Buhari from office.

The prosecution also accused Sowore of money laundering offences in breach of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011. He was alleged to have transferred by means of swift wire the sums of $19,975 on April 2, 2019; $20,475 on May 21, 2019, $16,975 on June 27, 2019, and another $16,975 on July 16, 2019.

It also accused Sowore of cybercrime offences in violation of section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, by “knowingly” sending false messages by means of press interview “for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Despite an earlier order for the accused persons to be released on bail, the SSS kept them in custody claiming the appropriate sureties had not come for them.

But on the 5th of December 2019, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the release of Sowore and Bakare and a cost of N100,000 awarded against the DSS.

Barely 24 hours after their release, the SSS re-arrested Omoyele Sowore on fresh charges when the duo appeared in court on for the resumption of their trial.

Video footages of the arrest immediately flooded the social media where Sowore was seen held down in a chokehold and his supporters heard shouting, “If you want to shoot, shoot!”

Though the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has taken over the case from the State Security Service, SSS, and directed the secret police to promptly forward all the case files, the initial silence from the presidency may have sent the wrong signal to everyone.

The Gestapo styled arrest of Sowore has continued to draw the fury of many Nigerians as well as the international community.

While some describe the whole action as a rape on democracy and an outright violation of judiciary in Nigeria, some commentators see it as a calculated attempt by Sowore to dent the country’s image.

Initially the Presidency seemed undaunted by the reactions the re-arrest has generated, as it stressed that Nigeria is a sovereign nation and will not be bothered about reports from the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union as regards human rights abuses.

Thankfully the Senate has mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter and report back in one week.

Hopefully Nigerians will get a clearer picture as to why the arrest has to be effected in such a manner and in the court premises.

Without a doubt, since the 2019 election, Sowore has made some provocative statements against the government.

For instance in July 2019, Sowore was quoted as saying, “I'm embarking on revolution. 85percent of Nigerians are in support. Don't tell me about legal implications or what a Judge will say. I don't care. We must bundle Buhari out of that place...the DSS shall seize to exist!”

Though such statement is provocative enough for any government to move in and take action, such actions must be carried out in accordance to the rule of law.

The SSS has the mandate of detecting and preventing threats against internal security of the country, Sowore should therefore had expected what was coming his way when he not only threatened to dethrone a democratically elected government, but also obliterate the secret police.

It is no longer a matter of debate that for some years now, the SSS has disregarded court orders to release some of its detainees of bail. The continued detention of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasauki, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky and wife has left many to accuse the Service of disregarding the rule of law.

The Hitler-like operations have further cast a shadow on the administration’s scant regard for the rule of law.

It is imperative that the government retraces its steps against citizenship rights and stranglehold on the rule of law before it snowballs into a full blown civil unrest against perceived enthronement of Fascism in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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