Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declined to hear an application by detained publisher of Sahara Reporters and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 2019 elections, Omoleye Sowore, seeking to vacate its order granting the Department of State Services (DSS) permission to detain him for a period of 45 days.
Although his lawyer and human rights activist Mr Femi Falana (SAN), pleaded with the court to give him a date to hear the application, his plea was turned down by Justice Taiwo Taiwo on grounds that his period as a vacation judge ended yesterday.
Justice Taiwo who granted the ex parte application on August 8 had equally ordered that should the applicant require more time to conclude its investigation after the expiration of the first 45 days, it had the liberty to apply for its renewal.
However, in a motion on notice filed by his counsel, Sowore asked the court for an order setting aside, discharging and/or vacating the ex parte order directing his detention for a period of 45 days.
The motion brought pursuant to sections 6 (6) (B), 35 and 36(4) of the 1999 constitution and section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is anchored on that “the said order of the Honorable Court breached the fundamental right provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The motion filed on August 9 was predicated on 18 grounds and supported by a 24-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Marshall Abubakar.
Falana who appeared in court unrobed sat at the back seat but his presence was noticed by the judge who demanded to know if he had any business to do in court.
“Mr Falana, any thing? You are not in your robe.”
Falana quickly stood up, walked towards the bench and bowed before the judge.
“My Lord, I am here in respect of the motion we filed last Friday (Aug. 9),” he said.
Justice Taiwo said: “I saw it and the reason I have not done anything is that I am ending my own vacation sitting tomorrow (todday). Have you served them (the DSS)?”
The human rights activist answered: “We served them since last week my Lord.” He also asked if the judge could hear the motion the next day (today).
But Justice Taiwo suggested they meet in his chamber to discuss on the issue of date.
As soon as the judge was done with the case, he rose and Falana joined him in the office.
After few minutes, Falana came out and told journalists that their motion on notice would be heard next week by another judge.
Sowore had in his motion described his detention by the DSS as illegal and unconstitutional.
He said his detention for an initial four days period before the grant of the ex-parte order is illegal by virtue of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Falana equally argued that “the persons who participated in the protests of August 5 have been charged with unlawful assembly at the Magistrate Courts at Ebute-Metta, Lagos State and Calabar, Lagos State.
He submitted that “the Applicant/Respondent motion exparte filed August 5 did not disclose any fact capable of linking the Respondent/Applicant to any terrorism activity nor did the supporting Affidavit allude to facts linking the Respondents/Applicants to any terrorism activity.
He posited that the Applicant’s detention has exceeded the maximum period a court of law can allow the Respondent to detain the Applicant in accordance with the provisions of Section 35 (4) (a) of the Constitution of Nigeria (AS AMENEDED) 2011 which only empowered the Applicant/Respondent to detain the Applicants for a maximum period of two months from the date of their arrest.