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Will Falana’s ‘Magic Wand’ Free Sowore From DSS Grip? By Oladimeji Ramon

Soon after the Department of State Services secured a court order to
detain the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, for 45
days, his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), vowed to challenge the order
and ensure that the activist regain his freedom soon.

But 32 out of the 45 detention days are gone, Falana is still
struggling to get a hearing date in court for the application he filed
to challenge Sowore’s detention. After granting the DSS the 45-day
detention order on August 8, Justice Taiwo Taiwo adjourned the case
till September 21.

By the time Falana came up with his application on behalf of Sowore,
Justice Taiwo had concluded a round of his sitting as a vacation judge
and proceeded on recess. In the circumstance, Falana took the
application before Justice Nkeonye Maha, who had taken over as the
next vacation judge.

But in Justice Maha’s court, Falana met a brick wall as the judge
declined to hear Sowore’s application on the grounds that she could
not review the order of Justice Taiwo, who is a judge of coordinate
jurisdiction. Justice Maha directed Falana to take the application
back to Justice Taiwo, particularly as Justice Taiwo had earlier
adjourned the case till September 21. By September 21, Sowore would
have spent 44 days in the DSS detention.

In an interview with our correspondent, Falana describes the
development as unfortunate but says he is not giving up the fight for
Sowore’s release.

The human rights lawyer says, “It is unfortunate that our client has
nearly completed the 45-day detention period.

“Mr. Sowore perfectly understands the issues involved in his current
travails. He is even lucky that he is being detained for 45 days. I am
pursuing the case of scores of people languishing in the custody of
the Nigerian Navy for close to two years without trial.  All the same,
we are pursuing the application to quash the 45-day detention order
slammed on Mr. Sowore by the Federal High Court.”

On how he intends to proceed after the setback in Justice Maha’s
court, Falana says, “Since the file was rejected by Justice Maha, we
have already returned to Justice Taiwo’s court. My colleagues in Abuja
have applied for a hearing date. I am reasonably sure that the case
will soon be heard.”

Falana believes there is no more to the difficulty he is having in
getting the court to hear Sowore’s application than the fact that the
court is on vacation. He likes to rule out external influences.

He says, “The Federal High Court is on annual vacation. Hence, the
delay in having the matter heard expeditiously. No external influence
is involved in the matter whatsoever.

“We have, however, taken up the issue of the delay with the relevant
authorities because the law provides that the writ of habeas corpus,
fundamental rights applications and other cases pertaining to the
personal liberty of any citizen must be heard and determined

But if Falana gets Justice Taiwo to hear the application today, he
would have only crossed the first hurdle. Before him is the second
hurdle of convincing the judge to reverse the 45-day detention order,
after which he will likely face the third hurdle of persuading the
judge not to, in fact, extend the detention period, should the DSS
file for such a request.

Falana, more than anyone, understands that these days, it is easier to
get into the DSS detention than to get out. He is the lawyer to the
leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky,
who has already spent four years in the DSS detention and he is still
counting. Not even a court order could force El-Zakzaky out of the
DSS’ iron grips. With his experience in El-Zakzaky’s case, Falana may
be in for a lot of déjà vu feelings in his quest to get Sowore out of
DSS detention.

Incidentally, it was nine days after Sowore was taken into custody
that El-Zakzaky was temporarily let out by the DSS for a medical trip
to India in early August.

Sowore was arrested in the wee hours of August 3, 2019, two days to
his planned nationwide #RevolutionNow protest.

The Federal Government believes that having tagged the protest
‘#RevolutionNow’, Sowore had made his mission to topple the Buhari
government through violence abundantly clear.

The government believes that having contested and lost in the February
23 presidential election, which Buhari won, Sowore was planning to
achieve his presidential ambition through his planned #RevolutionNow

The DSS said intelligence at its disposal showed that Sowore had a
meeting in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, with some foreign
collaborators, who mobilized with “millions of dollars” to topple
Buhari’s government through violent protests.

The Sahara Reporters publisher, according to the DSS, was also in
communication with the fugitive leader of the proscribed Indigenous
People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu – another DSS customer, who was charged
with treasonable felony and spent months in the DSS custody before
fleeing the country.

Despite being a public figure in Nigeria, Sowore has managed to keep
his family life private.

When the footage surfaced online last week of his wife, Opeyemi,
speaking on an American TV programme, Democracy Now, one gets the
feeling that with such a beautiful wife, why was Sowore organizing his
#RevolutionNow protest against the Buhari government, knowing the DSS
could arrest him and deny him, for a long time, the warm company of
his wife and two children, nine and 12, living in America.

On the programme, Opeyemi recounted how before DSS operatives seized
Sowore’s phone in the night of August 3, he managed to send her a text
message, “I love you,” to which she said, “Okay, I love you too,” only
to be told later that he had been arrested.

She believes the Nigerian Federal Government has no basis to keep her
husband in detention.

Asked if Opeyemi was right, Falana says, “I cannot comment on that
statement since the matter is sub judice. In fact, that is one of the
grounds of our objection to the 45-day detention period.”

Falana says he has access to Sowore and that his client is in high
spirits in the DSS detention.

The lawyer says, “His spirits are very high but he is virtually
redundant as the investigation has been concluded.

“He is, however, worried over the black-on-black violence going on in
South Africa. He said but for his incarceration, he would have
travelled to South Africa to interview President Cyril Ramphosa and
other top government officials who have been inciting unemployed South
African youths to unleash xenophobic attacks on hapless African
(Culled from Punch)

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