It was all drama on Tuesday, when a human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju led a group of protesters to the Abuja headquarters on the Department of State Services (DSS) to secure the release of Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore had been in the custody of the DSS despite an order of an Abuja High Court that granted him bail a few days ago. Sowore is being charged with treason for calling for a revolution in the county.
The protesters started gathering outside the DSS headquarters from 11.30 am. Reporters, who had come to cover the development, were hanging around, waiting for a possible scoop. At about 1 pm, more protesters had gathered and Adeyanju led them on a march towards the main entrance of the DSS headquarters. There, they sat on the ground as they chanted solidarity songs as they displayed various placards.
While this was going on, some of the operatives started shooting sporadically in the air. It was followed by tear gas was, then power bikes joined the van in the chase. The crowd scattered in different directions, spilling to the adjoining dual carriage motorway. The crowd was forced to move to a safe distance but continued the agitation.
Adeyanju alleged that some people he did not name, had offered the protesters N1 million “at gunpoint” to abandon the protest for Sowore. Showing wads of N500 notes as part of the bribe money, Adeyanju said the money would be returned to the people that gave it.
“We would never compromise. They said we should not come out today. They made all kinds of promises to us at gunpoint. But we would not be deterred. We have come here to say that the money they gave us, we do not want because it was given to us at gunpoint. We don’t want the money. They should take their money. If they don’t take their money by the end of today, we are going to give it to Femi Falana so he can use it to augment some of the legal bills of Sowore. For us, our hearts are always true to the cause.
“Some people have said they would kill me. If they kill me, would I be the first Nigerian to be killed? Would I be the last? I am not mentioning any names. But we are waiting for them to say what we have said is a lie. If they like they should kill us. I have given my life to Christ. God remains my eternal hope. In Him alone do I put all my trust and we would never be cowed.
“The people that gave us the money, they know themselves and they know the circumstances under which they gave us the money. So the people that gave the money know themselves and we that they gave the money, we also know those that gave the money. We have chosen not to say anything now. Everything would always unravel.”
The DSS had, on Friday, November 8, 2019, confirmed receiving a court order for the release of the Revolution Now convener, Omoyele Sowore and one of his associates, Olawale Bakare.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer of the DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya, released in Abuja that day, said however that nobody had come for Sowore.
The DSS statement had said, “It is important that the public notes that since the receipt of the Order, no person has turned up at the DSS to take delivery of him. This becomes imperative for reasons of accountability.
“However, the Court has been properly briefed on this development and the steps being taken to ensure compliance with its Order.
“The Service, under the leadership of Yusuf Magaji Bichi (fwc), as the Director-General, is not a lawless organization and will never obstruct justice or disobey Court Orders. It, therefore, affirms that it will do all that is needful once the appropriate processes have been concluded.”
But human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), faulted the claim, saying the DSS decided not to release his two clients to their lawyers who waited in vain for about four hours at the DSS headquarters on Thursday.
Falana said: “On November 6, 2019, the bailiff of the Federal High Court in Abuja wanted to serve the reproduction warrants issued by the court on the Director-General of the State Security Service. But the SSS asked the bailiff to call back at 10.00 am on November 7, 2019. The bailiff did and served the reproduction warrants on the DG of the SSS. Upon acknowledging the service of the reproduction warrants, the SSS assured the bailiff and lawyers from the defence team that our clients would be released yesterday (Thursday).
“But the SSS decided not to release our clients to our lawyers who waited in vain for not less than four hours. It is pertinent to point out that the meaning of the reproduction warrant issued by a trial court is that the defendants be produced for the purpose of releasing them having met their bail conditions.
“In the instant case, the Federal High Court did not order the SSS to hand over Messrs Sowore and Bakare to any person but to produce them for the purpose of releasing them having met the suffocating bail conditions imposed on them by the trial court.
“Even though the SSS disobeyed the order of Justice Taiwo Taiwo for the release of Mr. Sowore on September 24, 2019, it has announced its readiness to comply with the order of Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and Bakare from illegal custody.
“While thanking the Nigerian people for demanding for unconditional compliance with the orders of the Federal High Court, we have directed two lawyers from our law firm to contact the management of the SSS for the release of our clients at 10.00 am on November 9, 2019.”
The following day, Saturday, Deji Adeyanju, in company with Sowore’s lawyers and others, were said to have visited the DSS headquarters to claim Sowore. They were not successful as according to Adeyanju, they were asked to come back on a workday.
‘Why we have not
released Sowore yet’
DSS said Sowore was yet to be released because the “appropriate persons have still not turned up to take delivery of Sowore.”
The agency also said it did not open fire on protesters who were at their headquarters in Abuja to demand his release.
A statement by DSS Public Relations Officer, Dr Peter Afunanya, read: ” The Department of State Services wishes to state that its operatives did not open fire on alleged protesters who had stormed its facility on 12th November 2019.
“As a normal global security practice, the operatives stood in defence of their facility when some group of persons made unruly attempts to forcefully break into the place and effect the release of Omoloye Sowore.
“Despite serial and unwarranted provocations, the Service, as a professional and responsible Organisation, did not shoot at the so-called protesters. It could not have done so.
“For emphasis, the Service reiterates its avowed readiness to release SOWORE once the processes are concluded. It maintains that the appropriate persons have still not turned up to take delivery of Sowore.
“While all those that have so far shown up are not directly concerned with the matter and therefore unqualified, many others have either chosen to grandstand or politicise it to achieve hidden interests.
“In the last few days, the Service has continued to witness deliberate campaigns of calumny, threats, and aspersions against it. It will not, for any reason, join issues with its mudslingers. The media is called upon to be neutral and remain champions of the truth.
“It is only appropriate that those who stood surety for Sowore present themselves and have him released to them. It is even more disappointing that Femi Falana, who is a senior lawyer, would wrongly guide his client and supporters. He is rather playing to the gallery and mobilizing miscreants to subvert the Service and other state authorities. He has an excellent relationship with the DGSS. But in the circumstance, he has refused to reach out to him over the case like he had on previously related ones.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Service restates its commitment to the rule of law and particularly respect to the Court. It, therefore, calls for calm but states that it will not be intimidated or harassed into hasty actions.
“It reassures the public that it will not waste a second to release Sowore if the proper processes are followed. And Falana, sure, knows what these are,” the statement read.
We would never compromise. They said we should not come out today. They made all kinds of promises to us at gunpoint. But we would not be deterred