Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja, has ordered that convener of RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare (aka Mandate) be remanded in custody of the Department of State Service (DSS) till Friday, pending when it will hear his bail application.
This was even as they pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge of treasonable felony preferred against then by the Federal Government.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu who issued the remand order had earlier refused attempt by Sowore and Bakare from taking their plea
Sowore, alongside his co-defendant, Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate), had refused to take their plea as they challenged their planned arraignment when DSS failed to comply with an order the court made for his immediate release.
Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the last general election and publisher of an online media platform, Sahara Reporters, told the court that he was not duly served with a copy of the charge against him, insisting that he was denied access to his lawyers.
Their counsel, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide Fusika (SAN) decried what he termed as an act of lawlessness by the security agency, which he said refused to obey the directive of the same court that granted it leave to detain him for 45 days.
Fusika told the court that Sowore’s lead counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) got to know about the arraignment from reports in the newspaper, despite the fact that he was at the office of the DSS till 10pm on Sunday.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Hassan Liman (SAN) told the court that the defendants were duly served with the charge on September 20.
Liman argued that the high court only ordered that Sowore be released until his arraignment.
He argued that the release order has elapsed since the defendants have been brought before the court for arraignment
Besides, the prosecution contended that the charge was already served on the defendants before the court ordered Sowore’s release on September 24.
In her ruling, Justice Ojukwu held it was not in doubt that the defendants were served with the charge.
The judge noted that no reference was made to any court order stopping the defendants from taking their plea to the criminal charge.
“I see no breach of any of the tenets of justice in the present circumstance. What is before this Court is a criminal matter.
“I’m of the view that there is no impediment to arraignment of the defendants. The defendants are therefore called-up to enter their plea,” the court held.
Immediately after the ruling, the charges were read to the defendants who pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The defence counsel equally moved an oral application for their bail pending trial.
The prosecution, however, prayed the court to remand them in custody pending trial, adding that investigation had been concluded.
The defence lawyer argued that there was no reason for the defendants to remain in custody since investigation is concluded.
Though the court initially asked the defendants to choose between Kuje and Suleja prisons, Sowore’s lawyer, prayed the court to allow them remain in the custody of the DSS till the next adjourned date.
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out immediately after the court session as Sowore was prevented from addressing the press by operatives of the DSS who whisked him away.