Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has described the order of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court granted the Department of State Security (DSS) to detain Omoyele Sowore for 45 days as bad for democracy and a breach of his rights to fair hearing.
Ozekhome who faulted the decision of Justice Taiwo Taiwo, accused him of misapplying his discretionary powers.
In a written statement, the activist said the court should have ordered Sowore to show cause why he should not be detained for 45 days.
The statement reads: “The court-ordered detention of Omoyele Sowore on the application of the Federal Government is bad news for democracy and human rights, especially because the application was made and granted ex parte (behind Sowore’s back).
What was the extreme urgency in the matter (usually the main ground for granting ex parte orders) that the judge couldn’t order the government (who in any case was already detaining Sowore) to put him on notice? The court could also have ordered Sowore to show cause why he should not be detained for 45 days.
“I think it was discretion wrongly exercised, not having been exercised judicially and judiciously. In any event, Sections 39 to 43 of the Criminal Code and Section 410 of the Penal Code which criminalise treason envision a dire situation where an intention to overthrow a government, or overawe the president or governor of a state (called “mens rea”) is accompanied by overt acts (called “actus reus”), such as stockpiling and possession of arms and ammunition to physically carry out an insurrection, coup de’tat, or to use Sowore and his group’s terminology, revolution.
“Does mere uttered words, “we will cause a revolution” by Nigerians who are singing, dancing and carrying placards on the streets, shouting “aluta continua, victoria acerta”, without more, constitute treasonable felony? Especially by Nigerians who are protesting against bad governance and have carefully itemised their grievances in writing? Do these amount to treason or trasonable felony? Do you announce a “revolution”, if not for the mischief of so some people deliberately reading the word literally rather than figuratively? Didn’t President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014 call for a “revolution” in Nigeria during campaigns for presidency? Didn’t Chief Bola Tinubu in 2011 call for a “revolution”? Were they interpreted literally to mean the actual overthrow of the then government of President Goodluck Jonathan? Didn’t Nigerians understand this to mean a peaceful change of government through the ballot box? Why are we suddenly stretching it? Didn’t the APC leadership, including Sowore himself, literally shut down Nigeria in January, 2012, during massive protests against the attempt by the then Jonathan administration to remove so- called oil subsidy? Did this government not later hike it from N97 to its present N145 a litre? So much for duplicity and double standards!!!
Didn’t we, Civil Society and labour leaders, during successive military hunts and also during Obasanjo’s presidency, serially call for “revolution”, without any arms and ammunition? What happens to our citizens’ fundamental rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association as guaranteed by Sections 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights? What happens to the Court of Appeal decision in IGP vs ANPP, where it was held that no Nigerian requires police permit to demonstrate and protest peacefully on the streets of Nigeria?
“To me, what all this boils down to is an intolerant government that is gravely and pathetically allergic to respect for and tolerance of criticism, the rule of law, individual fundamental rights, political choices, plurality of voices, dissenting opinions and independence of the judiciary. Is it not ironic that the same government that never obeys court orders (Dasuki, El -Zakzaky, et al), always run to the same courts to obtain ex parte orders whenever it pleases them and satiates their massive egos, such as in banning of unarmed IPOB, detaining hapless Elzakzaky, detaining social-media raving, but unarmed Sowore, etc?
We are surely practising dictatorship and absolutism under the thin veneer of democracy in Nigeria today. There is nothing democratic about the present government’s genre of democracy. It is a complete farce and total ruse. God help Nigeria, even as the people should gird their loins for tougher days ahead. Nigerians should protest and demonstrate peacefully on Nigerian streets against the harsh and anti-people policies of this government. Not to do so is to cheaply capitulate to coercive intimidation and abdication of their sovereignty to their very elected and selected agents in government.”