An Abuja Federal High Court presided by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, has this afternoon Friday 4 October granted bail to the conveners of the Revolution Now movement, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant Olawale Bakare.
Both men were arrested by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS) on Saturday 3 August and taken into custody. Government accused them of planning to overthrow the current constitutional order and slammed them with seven charges bordering on alleged treasonable felony, fraud, money laundering and cyber-stalking.
However, the Judge gave conditions for the bail which included a N100million bail bond by two sureties for Mr. Sowore and a N50million bail bond by one surety for Mr. Bakare. The order says the sureties must be resident in Abuja, have landed assets up to the value of the bond and show evidence they are up-to-date with their tax records. She demanded the title documents of the surety’s landed assets be deposited with the court.
Additionally Judge Ojukwu ordered Sowore to deposit N50million in the account of the court as security and directed the travel documents of both men be seized and kept with the court. She said Sowore and Bakare should not leave Abuja and Osogbo respectively nor address any rallies pending the full determination of the substantive suit.
The defendants are to be remanded in custody until the bail conditions are perfected.
The court adjorned to 7 November for further hearing.
Reactiing to pressmen soon after the court ruling, lead counsel to the defendants, human right’s lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) described the bail conditions as “strident”, adding however, “We are going to explore the possibilities of meeting the bail conditions. But if for any reasons we are unable, we have the choice of asking for variation of the order.”
This is not the first time Mr. Sowore would be granted bail. On Tuesday 24 September, Justice Taiwo Taiwo had ordered the release of the defendants but the DSS balked – outrightly refusing to obey the court order even after the less strident bail conditions of that court was fulfilled.
Instead, DSS re-arraigned Sowore at Judge Ojukwu’s court on Monday 30 September.
Asked by journalists, if he feared DSS would refuse to comply with the latest bail order, Falana replied, “There is no one above the law. We will take appropriate steps to ensure that our clients regain their freedom as soon as possible.”
Legal fireworks in the courtroom
Earlier in court, the prosecuting and defending legal camps threw britbats to make a case against and for the bail application.
Falana urged the court to grant his client bail on the most “liberal terms”, arguing that his clients “was not even accused of training people” or had any “contact with any soldier”, and wondered how it was possible that they could be plotting to overthrow the government.
He reminded the court that “leaders of the ruling party (the All Progressives Congress) have been calling for a revolution…like the violent Egyptian revolution”, when they were in opposition while his client specifically described his revolution as “peaceful”.
“We submit with profound respect that the use of the word ‘revolution’ has not been criminalised in Nigeria.
“When President Buhari called for revolution, he was never arrested or prosecuted.”
But lead prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), debunked the arguments saying the issues Falana was canvassing were better left for the main trial and not relevant to the bail application.
He drew attention of the judge to the “severity” treasonable felony which he claimed carried a lifetime imprisonment which he said was sufficient severity to incentivize the defendants to jump bail.
Liman urged the court “to take judicial notice” that leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, charged in 2017 with similar offense, jumped bail.
Judge Ojukwu then set her ruling for 1.00pm.
However, the IPOB boss who now resides in both UK and Israel have often vigorously disputed suggestions that he jumped bail claiming he had to escape state assassination attempt on his life. At the heat of the agitation for referendum for the eastern bloc of Nigeria to be granted independence, Nigeria Army had during their “show of force” under military Operation Python Dance I in the area stormed the country home of the “Biafran” leader in Afara Ukwu, Umuahia, leaving as reported, 28 IPOB supporters killed.
The bail conditions handed down to Mr. Sowore are similar even if less strident to those of Mr. Kanu. Critics of the government say it is becoming more and more paranoid, haunting down every voice of dissent even as it appears helpless in the face of the insurgency in the northeast, attacks by killer herdsmen and banditry in most parts of the country.
In a recent letter addressed to United Nations in Geneva, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu had urged the global body to “take urgent action against the
numerous rights abuses ” in Nigeria and among other prayers to end the “continued illegal detention of Omoleye Sowore”. It is unclear if the diplomatic pressures from the IPOB leader played any role in the current scenario for a government which hitherto appeared pertinacious to all domestic demands for the release of the Revolution Now leaders.
Sowore and Bakare appeared to be in high spirits during the court session today. Addressing his excited supporters and sympathizers inside the court premises, Sowore said, “Nobody can harass me. Under the military, we survived it; we will survive this one too.”
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes, we must persevere and ensure that we liberate ourselves. We must not give up.
“I am in high spirit, I am not afraid, I don’t care what they do. We need a brand new country, that’s what I’m about.”
Omoyele Sowore is the publisher of the radical online news media Sahara Reporters, which is believed to have played significant role in ousting the government of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan and ushering in to power President Buhari and his APC party.
Sowore is actually an Ijaw from Ese-Odo in Ondo State but often wrongly perceived to be a Yoruba by ethnicity.
He has been a pro-democracy activists way back during the struggle for military era. He has a masters degree in public administration from Columbia University, USA, and was a presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 election, garnering only about 33,000 votes nation wide.