The Federal Government and the judiciary came under attack on Thursday as a Federal High Court in Abuja granted the Department of State Services permission to detain the publisher of Sahara Reporters and convener of the #RevolutionNow protests, Omoyele Sowore, for 45 days.
Operatives of the DSS, had on Saturday, arrested Sowore over his call for revolution ahead of the #RevolutionNow protests which held in some parts of the country on Monday.
Ruling on an ex parte application by the security agency to detain Sowore for 90 days to investigate him for treason-related allegations, the judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo granted the agency permission to hold the activist for only 45 days.
According to the judge, the 45 days period, starting from Thursday, lapses on September 21,the date he also fixed for the next hearing session in the case.
He, however, said that the order of detention for 45 days was subject to renewal for further days upon an application by the security agency, in the event that its investigation could not be concluded within the first 45 days.
Applying for the detention order earlier on Tuesday, the DSS, through its lawyer, Mr G.O. Abadua, argued the ex parte application which it anchored on the provisions of section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2013.
Ruling on Thursday, the judge said, although the hearing of the application was one-sided as legally allowed under the provisions of section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act, he said he had to act on the facts alluded to by the applicant in the application until the contrary was proved.
He noted that he had watched the video clips attached to the application as exhibits, one of which was said to have shown a conference held by Sowore and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, earlier proscribed by the Federal Government, Mr Nnamdi Kanu.
The other, also a video clip, was said to have shown Sowore saying that members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the body of Shiites movement recently proscribed by the government, would join forces with him to bring down the Nigerian government.
The judge also said the use of the word, “may”, in section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act, “is directory,” robbing him of discretion to decline to grant the application.
He said, “The word, ‘may’ is not always ‘may.’ Sometimes it is equivalent to ‘shall.’ See the PDP Vs Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
“I am of the view that the use of the word ‘may’ in section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act 2013 is directory and not mandatory.
“I have looked at the facts presented by the applicant, I will fail in my duties if I do not act on those facts at least until the contrary is proved.
“I shall therefore grant the application only to the extent that the applicant shall detain the respondent for a period of 45 days, in the first instance, which may be renewed upon application by the applicant for further number of days if investigation is not concluded by the applicant within the 45 days granted by the court.
“The return date shall be 45 days from today, August 8, 2019. It therefore means that this suit is adjourned till September 21, 2019.”
A handful of orange-beret-wearing supporters of Sowore were at the court on Thursday.
We’ll challenge order – Falana, Sowore’s lawyer
However, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), who is Sowore’s lawyer, indicated on Thursday, that he would file an application to challenge the detention order.
Falana, who was unwilling to give much details, said Sowore had as of Wednesday envisaged the Thursday’s ruling and had instructed that it should be challenged.
The senior lawyer said, “I saw him yesterday (Wednesday) when he had already envisaged that the order for his detention would be granted. So he had already given us the instruction to challenge it.”
Despite this, many organisations including the European Union, Afenifere, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Free Nigeria Movement and senior lawyers including Mike Ozekhome (SAN), faulted the order.
While SERAP said it would petition the United Nations Human Rights Council on the continued detention of Sowore, Afenifere and Ozekhome called for the unconditional release of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the 2019 presidential poll. They described the order as unjust.
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