Saturday, 5 October 2019
COURT GRANTS SOWORE N100M BAIL, ASSOCIATE N50M
A Federal High Court in Abuja has barred politician and convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-defendant, Olawale Adebayo Bakare (aka Mandate), not to participate in any form of protest pending the conclusion of their trial.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu announced this yesterday as part of the conditions attached to the bail granted Sowore (who also owns the online medium – Sahara Reporters) and Bakare, while ruling on their bail application.
The judge granted them bail, but with varied conditions. While Sowore got bail at N100million and two sureties in the same amount, Bakare was granted bail at N50m with a surety in the same amount.
The three sureties, the judge said, must be resident in Abuja and must have landed property in Abuja, with value estimated at the amount set for bail. The judge said the sureties must deposit the original title documents of the property with the court.
They sureties, the judge added, are to show evidence of tax payment for three years – 2014 to 2016.
Justice Ojukwu, who equally ordered the defendants to submit their international passports to the court, said they must not travel outside the country without the court’s permission.
The defendants were arraigned before the court on September 30, 2019 on a seven-count charge in which they were, among others, accused of plotting to remove the president and destabilize the country, a charge to which they denied by pleading not guilty.
After they pleaded to the charge, Justice Ojukwu ordered them to file formal bail applications, directed that they be kept in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) and fixed October 4, 2019 for the hearing of the bail applications.
At the resumption of proceedings, Femi Falana (SAN), who led the defendants’ legal team and Hassan Liman (SAN), who led the team of lawyers for the prosecution, argued for and against the single bail application filed by the defendants.
On the bail application, Falana faulted the prosecution’s claim that the defendants will jump bail because the first defendant (Sowore) was resident in America.
He argued that such claim was not tenable and noted the 1st defendant was a candidate in the February 23. 2019 presidential election.
Falana also faulted the charge of treasonable felony brought against the defendants, contending that the word, “Revolution,” has not been criminalised in the country. He noted that even the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, upon losing the presidential election in 2003, called for a revolution, but was not arrested by the state.
In also faulting the aspect of the charge, where the prosecution accused Sowore of insulting the president, Falana argued that the law did not allow a public officer to use the machinery of the state to “settle personal scores.”
He added that if the President feels insulted by the defendant’s conduct or utterances, he has the option of suing for either libel or defamation.
Falana equally faulted the prosecution’s reliance, in its opposition to the bail application, on the case of Asari Dokubo who was denied bail when he was charged with similar offences. He argued that Dokubo was denied bail by the Supreme Court in view of his confessional statement, but not because of the severity of the charge against him.
Falana further argued that there was no aspect of Sowore’s statement linking him with violence. He assured the court that if granted bail, the defendants will not interfere with either evidence or prosecution’s witnesses.
He drew the court’s attention to many instances before now, where persons accused of treasonable felony were granted bail even on self-recognizance.
Falana prayed the court to allow his clients on bail either on self-recognizance or on liberal terms.
In reaction to the prosecution’s claim that the defendants could escape as was the case with the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, Falana argued that both cases were not the same.
Falana said the prosecution knows Kanu’s whereabouts and could easily extradite him if it sees the need to do so.
In his opposition to the bail application, Liman urged the court to discountenance Falana’s submissions which, he argued, touched on the substance of the charge.
Liman noted that the charge against the defendants was severe and that some of the offences attract life sentences on conviction. He said there was the high risk of the defendants jumping bail if granted.
He referred to Kanu who, Liman noted, absconded and failed to return for his trial after he was granted bail.
Liman argued that the first defendant (Sowore) “is a flight risk, being a resident of the United States of America.”
In further opposing the bail application, Liman expressed concern about the possibility of the defendants repeating the act for which they were standing trial. He added that Sowore had, on September 30, 2019, after the court’s proceedings and, while he was being led away by security operatives, shouted “revolution now” when he sighted his supporters.
Liman urged the court to reject the bail application and instead, grant accelerated hearing because the prosecution was ready to prove its case, having concluded investigation.
After delivering the ruling, Justice Ojukwu adjourned until November 6 for the commencement of trial.
While exiting the courtroom, Falana noted that the conditions attached to the bail granted his clients were stringent. He said his team will examine the conditions and decide later whether or not to return to the court with a request for variation.