FG Bows to Pressure, Frees Dasuki, Sowore

FG Bows to Pressure, Frees Dasuki, Sowore

…Resolves to Comply With Court Orders …Restates Unrelenting Commitment to Deepen Rule of Law …Release El Zakzaky, Wife, Other Detainees…Falana Against the backdrop of mounting local and international pressure for their release, the Federal Government has freed the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki and Convener of RevolutionNow Movement, Mr Omoyele Sowore, stating its

…Resolves to Comply With Court Orders

…Restates Unrelenting Commitment to Deepen Rule of Law

…Release El Zakzaky, Wife, Other Detainees…Falana

Against the backdrop of mounting local and international pressure for their release, the Federal Government has freed the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki and Convener of RevolutionNow Movement, Mr Omoyele Sowore, stating its resolve to comply with court orders.

This is coming a day after some activists led by Mr Deji Adeyanju took over the premises of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja to press home Sowore’s release.   

Their continued incarceration in spite of numerous court orders granting them bail has drawn the ire of local and international groups including the US Congress, the UK and European Union asking the government to abide by the rule of law.

Particularly embarrassing for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was the invasion of the court on Friday, December 6th by the operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) in a Gestapo manner to re-arrest Sowore, 24 hours after he was granted bail from 125-day detention. This attracted odium to the government from across the world with many slamming what they interpreted as a slide to anarchy.   

According to the press statement signed by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, “The Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation has reviewed the pending criminal charges against the duo of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) and Omoyele Sowore.

“Whilst the Federal High Court has exercised its discretion in granting bail to the Defendants in respect of the charges against them, I am also not unmindful of the right of the Complainant/Prosecution to appeal or further challenge the grant of bail by the court having regards to extant legal provisions, particularly Section 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

“However, my Office has chosen to comply with the court orders while considering the pursuit of its rights of appeal and/or review of the order relating to the bail as granted or varied by the courts.

“In line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and in compliance with the bail granted to Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) (as recently varied by the Court of Appeal) and the bail granted to Omoyele Sowore, I have directed the State Security Services to comply with the order granting bail to the Defendants and effect their release.

“The two Defendants are enjoined to observe the terms of their bail and refrain from engaging in any act 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.

“I wish to reiterate again the utmost regard of my Office for the entire judicial structure of Nigeria. This administration remains unrelenting in deepening the rule of law and the administration of justice in general,” Malami said.

Human Rights Lawyer and leader of the defence team for Sowore, Mr Femi Falana says, “We have confirmed that the federal government has decided to comply with the orders of some municipal and regional courts for the release of Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Col. Sambo Dasuki. With respect to Mr. Olawale Bakare he was not rearrested like Mr. Sowore. So the order of the federal high court for his release on bail was complied with by the State Security Service on December 5, 2019.

“However, we call on the federal government to release other political detainees and criminal suspects in line with valid and subsisting orders of courts.  In particular, we request the federal government to liaise with the Kaduna state government to withdraw the charge filed against Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky and his wife, Mrs Zeinat El Zakzaky who have been detained since December 14, 2015.

“The federal high court had on December 2, 2016 declared the detention of the couple illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to release them from custody forthwith. Apart from awarding them reparation of N50 million, the federal high court also ordered the federal government to provide them with a temporary accommodation since the Nigerian Army had destroyed their family house in Zaria.

“However, in a bid to stop the protests of the Shiites who were demanding for the release of their leaders on the basis of the orders of the federal high court, the federal government asked the Kaduna state government to arraign the couple in the Kaduna state high court. Even though they have been charged with procuring certain persons to kill a soldier, the Kaduna state high court has since discharged and acquitted the persons allegedly procured by the El Zakzaky to kill the said soldier.

“By ordering the release of Col Dasuki pursuant to the orders of courts, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN has jettisoned the reactionary position that national security takes precedence over the rule of law. Since the Buhari administration has now embraced the rule of law, Mr. Malami should ensure that the valid and subsisting orders of all courts are obeyed in accordance with section 287 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Falana said.

Dasuki who’s standing trial for the misappropriation of $2 billion mean for the purchase of arms has been held shortly after the Buhari government debut in 2015. Sowore was arrested in Lagos on August 3, two days after the commencement of the RevolutionNow protests called for August 5 to register indignation against the perceived sliding living standards and poor performance of the Buhari government.

Following Sowore’s prolonged detention along with his associate, Mr Olawale Bakare under the 2013 Terrorism Act, they were charged with treason for having called for a peaceful protest and cyber stalking for having allegedly insulted the President of Nigeria in a media interview.

A third charge concerns money laundering for transferring funds for operating expenses of Sahara Reporters, Mr Sowore’s US-based online news agency that focuses on corruption and human rights abuses in Nigeria, from the outlet’s US account to its Nigerian account. All the charges are considered to be a response to Mr Sowore’s critical stance towards the government rather than any actual criminal wrongdoing.

50 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) had earlier made a renewed call on the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) to intervene to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore.

Mr Ayode Longe, programme director, Media rights Agenda, one of the organisations in the coalition said: “It is antithetical to the tenets of democracy to arrest a man who was merely exercising his constitutional right of assembly, association and expression and the height of impunity to continue to detain him even after a court of competent jurisdiction has granted him bail. The DSS must immediately and unconditionally release Sowore.”

Commenting on the charges, Mr Nwachukwu Egbunike of Global Voices said: “Omoyele Sowore’s continued detention and the charges of treason affirm our position that this trial is merely a criminalisation of political dissent. We call on the Nigerian government to honour its own laws and the international treaties it is a signatory to. Sowore should be unconditionally released.”

The 50 CSOs had previously filed an urgent appeal on August 23, 2019, arguing that Mr Sowore’s treatment constituted a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to a fair trial, right to freedom of expression, right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and his rights as a human rights defender. They therefore renewed their call upon the UN and AU Special Mechanisms to intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and declare his arrest, prosecution and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.

“Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice systems, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom,” said Olúwádàre A. Kóláwolé of the Socio Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP). “Invoking charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law,” he said.

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