A judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice Evelyn Maha, has declined the request by detained Convener of #RevoltionNow, Omoyele Sowore, to hear his motion challenging his continued detention by the Department of State Services (DSS).
The DSS accused the detainee of holding “seris of closed-door meetings” with proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to attack Nigeria.
Another judge of the court, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on August 8, had granted the DSS the permission to detain Sowore for 45 days in the first instance.
This followed the security agency’s claim that the detainee was involved in acts of terrorism and plotted to topple the government, an allegation he has since denied.
Rather than wait for the expiration of the 45 days granted the DSS, Sowore returned to the court, via a motion filed on August 9, demanding, among others, that the court vacates the order for his detention, made ex parte.
When the matter came up yesterday before Justice Maha, now sitting as the court’s vacation judge (after Taiwo concluded his vacation siting last week), the judge said she lacked the jurisdiction to hear Sowore’s motion.
Justice Maha said she lacked the powers to review the decision of his colleague, adding that doing so would amount to sitting on an appeal over a decision passed by a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
The judge also rejected an oral application for bail, made later by Sowore’s lead lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN).
She averred that having earlier issued her ruling before Falana’s oral application, she was functus officio (could no longer deal with the issue).
Justice Maha asked parties to return to the court which granted the detention order.
In the motion challenging his detention, Sowore, who is the publisher of Sahara Reporters and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February election, kicked at the detention order.
He queried the justification for his continued detention when, according to him, the DSS has concluded investigation of the matter and announced its findings.
He added that he had also volunteered statement to the applicant/respondent.
Sowore argued that “at the time of the hearing of the motion ex parte, the respondent/applicant was in custody of the applicant/respondent (DSS) at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”.
“The day the motion ex parte was filed at the registry of this honourable court, the respondent/applicant was allowed by the applicant/respondent to consult his counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on phone.
“The motion ex parte was predicated on suppression and misrepresentation of material facts. The motion ex parte constitutes a gross abuse of the process of this honourable court.
“The applicant’s/respondent’s motion ex parte filed on August 5, did not disclose any fact capable of linking the respondent/applicant to any terrorism activity.
“In the same vein, the motion filed August 5 did not, in the supporting affidavit, allude to facts linking the respondents/applicants to any terrorism activity.
“The applicant’s detention has exceeded the maximum period a court of law can allow the respondent to detain the applicant in accordance with the provisions of which only empower the applicant/respondent to detain the applicants for a maximum period of two months from the date of their arrest.
“The order made on August 8 was based on a wrong presumption and mistake that the complaint against the respondent therein relates to terrorism.
“By virtue of Section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, an application for the remand of any suspect is to be made before a Magistrates’ Court.”
The DSS prayed the court to reject Sowore’s request that the detention order be set aside.
The service said its investigation revealed that #RevolutionNow was a smokescreen for the actual intention of Sowore and his allies “to topple the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The DSS said it carried out painstaking investigation on Sowore’s activities due to the quantum of evidence so far gathered.
The service said it may return to court to seek an extension of the 45 days granted it by the Federal High Court, Abuja, to detain the suspect.
In the counter-affidavit deposed to by Godwin Agbadua, an official of the DSS, the service averred that Sowore was arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed a capital offence, following his alleged involvement in terrorist activities.
“The respondent/applicant (Sowore) planned to violently change the government through the hashtag #RevolutionNow. The respondent/applicant hid under the cover of a call for mass protest with the hash tag #RevolutionNow to mislead unsuspecting and innocent members of the public into joining him to topple the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In his plot to topple the government the respondent/applicant held series of meetings with members at a prescribed terrorist organisation, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) with a view to mobilising strong forces to realise his agenda at changing the government.
“The respondent formed an alliance with a fugitive, Nnamdi Kano, a self-acclaimed leader of the proscribed terrorists group, IPOB, to launch series of attacks on Nigeria with a view to violently removing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“After series of closed-door meetings between the duo in the United States of America (U.S.A), they addressed a media briefing wherein they both stated their resolve to form an alliance against the Nigerian government. The duo stated that they had a well-planned out strategy to realise their objective, which is toppling the government.
“The applicant/respondent is investigating the activities of the respondent/applicant as it relates to a terrorists organisation, IPOB. The facts show a conjecture between the respondent/applicant and IPOB activities.
“There is the need for the applicant/respondent to investigate such reasonable suspicion of the relationship between the respondent/applicant and IPOB,” the DSS said.
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