Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has given the Department of State Security Service (DSS) the go-ahead to detain the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, Omoyele Sowore, for 45 days pending the conclusion of its investigation.
Although the DSS had sought for 90 days within which to detain Sowore, Justice Taiwo Taiwo held that the 45 days period granted by the court was subject to renewal for further number of days after the expiration of the initial period.
According to him, should the applicant require more time to conclude its investigation after the expiration of the first 45 days, it has the liberty to apply for its renewal.
Justice Taiwo said although the hearing of the application was one-sided as provided by the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act, the use of the word, “may,” in the provision “is directory” and not “discretionary.”
He said he would, therefore, be failing in his duty not to grant the request for a detention order.
Justice Taiwo said he had to grant the application, “only to the extent” of allowing the security agency to keep the respondent in custody for only 45 days for the applicant to conclude its investigation.”
I have gone through the processes before me and also the relevant sections of the law, especially Section 35(1); 35 (3), 35 (4) and 35(7) of the Terrorism Prevention Act as well as the NSA Act.
“Section 35 of the 1999 constitution dealing with the liberty of a citizen is not absolute.
“However, decisions of courts must be backed by existing laws and fact. The court has to look at the fact presented before it, which at the moment is one-sided.
“This type of application is backed by law and it is therefore not strange in law.
“I have watched the evidence attached. Two key words are important in considered this application.
“One is that the facts contained in the application are allegations which must be proved beyond reasonable doubts.
“The other is allegations. There is no doubt that the responded is entitled to personal liberty under section 35(1) of the 1999 constitution.
“The nature of the offence of terrorism which the responded is been investigated is grave. The gravity of the offence is that it is an affront to the peace of the society, it has psychological effect on members of the society.
“The offence further threatens the stability of the state.
“However, the facts contained in the application are allegations which must be proven at a certain time.
“I am of the view that Section 37 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention Act, the use of the word ‘may’ connotes that the court has discretion in this matter.
“The law is long settled that the word ‘may’ may not sometimes be discretionary. In the instant case, I am of the view that the use is discretionary and not mandatory.
“I shall, therefore, grant this application only for a period of 45 days subject for renewal for further number of 45 days by the DSS.
Sowore, who is the publisher of Sahara Reporters and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 elections was arrested in the early hours of Saturday by operatives of the Department of State Services in a hotel in Lagos.
The state agency said Sowore was arrested on account of the #RevolutionNow protest which he had spearheaded.
Sowore was moved to Abuja on Sunday morning and is currently being detained in the custody of the DSS.
The exparte motion by the DSS marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 915/19 is seeking the order of the court to detain Sowore beyond the 48 hours of his arrest required by law.
The application was brought under Section 27 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013 and was supported by a seven-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Mohammed Bello.
Attached to the application were two video clips marked exhibit SS 1 and SS 2 respectively.
While exhibit SS1 is a video statement by Sowore with Nnamdi Kanu, exhibit SS 2 showed statement by members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) that they were going to join forces with Sowore to bring down the government.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned to September 21 for hearing.