The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Friday threw out an application the Federal Government seeking to mask all the witnesses that are billed to testify against convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoleye Sowore, and his co-Defendant, Olawole Bakare.
Justice Ojukwu said the decision was in line with Covid-19 protocols approved in practice direction of the court.
Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), in the 2019 general election and Bakare are answering to an amended two-count treasonable felony charge.
The Defendants were alleged to have conspired to stage a revolution campaign on August 5, 2019, tagged “#Revolution Now”, aimed at removing President Muhammadu Buhari from office as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office, otherwise than by constitutional means.
The prosecution had moved the application midway into the testimony of its first witness, PW-1, Mr Rasheed Olawale, who is a Principal Staff Officer of the Department of State Service, DSS.
It pleaded with the court to shield identities of other pending witnesses.
According to the Federal government, the remaining witnesses “are afraid of giving evidence, unless they are protected, for fear of being murdered by the Defendants, his cohorts or members of the ‘Revolution Now’ protest group across the country”.
“That the prosecution witnesses who are Officers of the Department of State Service, who investigated this case, are reluctant to come and give evidence for fear of being attacked by the other members of the Revolution Now’ protest group across the country.”
Its position was contained in a five paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Noma Wando, a litigation officer in the Department of Public Prosecution, Federal Ministry of Justice.
The application was vehemently opposed to by the defence team, led by human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, and Mr Abubakar Marshall.
They urged the court to dismisses the application, insisting there was nothing in the charge to warrant the exception of members of the public from observing their trial.
Sowore’s lawyer, Falana, SAN, argued that by virtue of section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the Defendants, are entitled to a public trial.
He told the court that identities of all the proposed witnesses are already in the public domain.
“If the trial will not be public, cogent and convincing reasons must be adduced by the Prosecution.
“In the list of witnesses and Exhibits filed by the Prosecution, the names of the witnesses were listed by them.