NIGERIA’S Department of State Security (DSS) has denied that it attempted to arrest for presidential candidate and Sahara Reporters publisher Omoyele Sowore at the Abuja high court on Friday claiming the whole story was fabricated.
Sowore, 47, was released on bail last Thursday after spending 125 days in detention when the DSS was forced to obey a court order granting him bail. Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court in Abuja had fined the DSS N100,000 for not obeying her order to release Sowore despite him meeting all the bail conditions.
Left with no other option, the DSS let Sowore go but on Friday, when he appeared in court as the substantive hearing continued, the security men were waiting for him. Heavily-armed DSS operatives disrupted the court proceedings, drove away Mr Sowore’s lawyer Femi Falana and chased Justice Ojukwu out of the courtroom at gun point.
After several minutes of tension, Mr Falana drove Mr Sowore and his co-defendant Olawale Bakare in his car out of the court premises but DSS operatives pursued them in several vehicles in a hot chase. Earlier, Mr Falana met with Justice Ojukwu and the DSS lawyer, Hassan Liman, in a bid to resolve the matter, with the judge adjourning the case to February 11 to 13 next year for further hearing.
Since Friday, Mr Sowore has been back in detention and the actions of the DSS have attracted widespread condemnation internationally. Feeling the heat, DSS spokesman Peter Afunanya, denied the allegations that the agency stormed the courtroom despite video recordings of the incident widely available, saying that it is law-abiding and will never have invaded a court.
Mr Afunanya said: “It has become important that the Department of State Services responds to the serial misinformation being circulated in the media about its involvement in the incident that occurred on 6th December, 2019 at the Federal High Court, Abuja. It is instructive to note that during the court proceeding of the day under reference, defence counsel, Femi Falana, called the attention of the Judge to a suspicion that the Service was planning to re-arrest Omoyele Sowore immediately after the court session.
“The court discountenanced his alarm and asserted that the service was law abiding and would not engage in such and subsequently adjourned to February, 2020. However, when Sowore stepped out of the court and sighted operatives of the service within the premises, he ran back into the courtroom and in a bid to shield him from an imaginary arrest, his uncontrollable supporters mobbed him while chanting you can’t arrest him, thus the pandemonium that ensued.
“A critical look at the videos in circulation would convince any objective viewer that there was no DSS personnel during the entire period the Sowore crowd acted out its orchestrated drama. Its personnel were never, at any time, involved in the incident and in actual fact, it was his people who seized him and from the latest developments, it has become obvious what the intent for such mischief was simply to serve a propagandist purpose as well as bring the service into disrepute.
“Eyewitness and several media accounts have disclosed that the court had adjourned peacefully without any untoward incident when suddenly the unruly crowd imported into the courtroom went into frenzy on the mere suspicion that DSS was sighted at the court premises. The eventual re-arrest of Sowore by the DSS was effected outside the courtroom and his lead counsel has affirmed this.
“The DSS, as a professional, responsible and law abiding organisation, could not have invaded a courtroom including the one presided over by a respected judge who is not only handling its case but whose order was unconditionally obeyed within a 24 hour ultimatum. The service holds the judiciary in utmost respect and will continue to work with it for national peace and public safety in Nigeria.
“It has therefore become unarguable and raises a moral question as to who, between Sowore and the service, dislikes or disobeys the courts. In this regard, public attention may be drawn to the 25th July 2019 statement of Sowore that “I’m not talking of protest. I’m embarking on revolution. Don’t tell me about legal implications or what a judge will say. I don’t care.
“On December 5 when Sowore was released, he had, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja addressed a group of persons who, he reassured of his cause to create anarchy in the country. It may be recalled that the service had on December 3, 2019 raised an alarm about a plot to destabilise the country and it is quite remarkable that the plot has already started playing out.
“To ensure this objective is further achieved, some persons and groups are scurrying to seize the opportunity of the misleading court incident and the wrong narrative against the DSS to organise an insurrection in the country. They have continued to falsely curry and mobilise international sentiments and attention, through clear misrepresentation of the facts, for their selfish ends.
“For emphasis, it should be noted that Sowore is facing trial not as an activist, journalist or a politician but for his resort to call for violence, forceful takeover of government and suspected trans-national illegal activities. It is most unfortunate that Sowore, shortly after being released from custody, based on a court order, resorted to acts inimical to security.
“To this effect, only Sowore has been re-arrested as his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, was not picked up even when Mr Falana had promised to deliver him to the service that is not presently interested in him. Though sections of the populace have been fed with spurious narratives about these developments, Nigerians and the international community should not be gullible or even vulnerable to the machinations of groups desirous of misleading them.
“The service is committed to the discharge of its mandate of detecting and preventing threats against the internal security of Nigeria. It supports democracy in the country and will do all that is legal to protect it and it will also ensure that efforts of anti-democratic forces are frustrated.”