as absence of Defendants stall ruling on their bail request
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has ordered the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Police Command, to hands-off trial of convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoleye Sowore.
Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election and publisher of an online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, was arrested on new year’s eve for leading protest against bad governance in the country.
Police subsequently arraigned him alongside four other activists that were also arrested during the protest- Juwon Sanyaolu, Peter Williams, Damilare Adenola and Emmanuel Bulus- before an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court sitting at Wuse Zone 2.
The Defendants, who were docked on January 4, pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge thas was preferred against them, even as Magistrate Mabel Segun-Bello ordered their remand at the Kuje Correctional Center.
The charge against them bordered on criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and their alleged attempt to incite public disturbance.
Police alleged that the Defendants were arrested with placards that called for a violent revolution against President Muhammadu Buhari
However, the court, on January 5, transferred the Defendants from prison custody to the Force Criminal Investigation Department situated at Garki Area 10, Abuja.
Their transfer came after Sowore, who was brought to the court in handcuffs, complained about degrading treatment he said they were subjected to at the Kuje Correctional Center.
He told the court that the prison authorities denied them access to medical treatment, food and water.
Following his complain, aside from changing their place of remand, the court, directed the Police which is prosecuting the case, to provide the 3rd Defendant, Adenola who is a law student of the University of Abuja, with internet facilities and writing materials, to enable him to prepare for his examination, even as it adjourned to rule on their bail application.
The Defendants had through their lawyer, Mr. Marshal Abubakar, prayed the court to release them on bail, pending the determination of the case against them.
Their application was however opposed by Police lawyer, Mr. Adama Musa, who urged the court to allow them to remain in detention.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Friday, Police, failed to produce the Defendants in court for ruling on their bail request.
Owing to the situation, Magistrate Segun-Bello said she could not deliver the ruling in the absence of both the Defendants and the Prosecution.
Vanguard learned that the AGF had earlier directed Police to handover the case-file to the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, at the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Confirming the development to journalists at the court premises, counsel to the Defendants, Mr. Marshal, said the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, DIG, had on the order of the AGF, retrieved the case-file from the FCT Police Command.
According to Marshal who alleged that there was confusion among the prosecuting team: “This morning, we reached out to the authorities to bring the Defendants to court to listen to the terms and conditions upon which bail would be considered.
“But we were informed and shown copies of documents from the office of the DIG requesting for the case file of Omoyele Sowore from the office of the Commissioner of police FCT Abuja.
“Now we were told reliably that the office of the Commissioner of Police transfered the case-file to the office of the DIG yesterday.
“In service, the moment you request for the case-file of a suspect and the case-file was officially transferred to you, it is assumed that you have taken over responsibility of that particular matter.
“When I spoke to the CP this morning and the prosecutors and the IPO, they did informed me that the FCIID has taken over the matter officially. So on that basis, they said they don’t have a vehicle to convey Sowore and the other Defendants to court.
“We took our time to reach out to the authorities of the FCIID. We asked them that since they have taken over this case-file, how would the Defendants be brought to court to listen to their bail application.
“And they said it is not in their place and they are not interested in Sowore’s case because of the political nature of that matter.
“This morning, they also brought before the court, another signal from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation mandating the office of the DPP to take over the case-file from the police.
“This means that the DPP are now responsible for prosecuting this particular case.
“The court has also requested that since the ruling is for the Defendant, it is expedient that they are brought to court to listen to the order”, he added.
It will be recalled that Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election and publisher of an online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, was previously detained for about five months after he was arrested in 2019 for convening the #RevolutionNow protest.
He was later charged before the Federal High Court in Abuja where he is currently answering to an amended two-count treasonable felony ealongside his co-Defendant, Olawole Bakare.
The Defendants were specifically alleged in that charge to have conspired to stage a revolution campaign on August 5, 2019, tagged “#Revolution Now”, aimed at removing President Buhari from office as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office, otherwise than by constitutional means.