Court discharges Sowore, Bakare, orders DSS to release seized items

NAN reports that the judge had, on Feb. 14, threatened to strike out the charge for lack of diligent prosecution.

Court discharges, Sowore, Bakare, orders DSS, release seized items
Omoyele Sowore
Court discharges, sowore, bakare, orders dss, release seized items
Omoyele sowore

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, discharged Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare of alleged treasonable felony preferred against them by the Attorney-General.of the Federation (AGF), Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

Justice Emeka Nwite, in a ruling after counsel for the AGF, A.R. Tahir, withdrew the charge, struck out the matter.

“In view of the application made by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, this charge, between Federal Republic of Nigeria and Omoyele Sowore and another, is hereby struck out and the defendants discharged,” he declared.

Justice Nwite also ordered the Department of State Service (DSS) to immediately release three phones and the sum of N10, 000 seized from Sowore during his arrest.

The judge equally ordered the DSS to release a phone belonging to Bakare and the sum of N1, 500 confiscated from him on his arrest.

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Justice Nwite further ordered that Sowore’s international passport be released to him forthwith.

The orders followed an application by lawyer to Sowore and Bakare, Mr Femi Falana, SAN.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Sowore and Bakare (1st and 3nd defendants) were earlier arraigned before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in 2019 before the matter was reassigned to Nwite after Ojukwu was transferred to another jurisdiction.

The Federal Government had dragged them to court on allegations of treason and attempts to overthrow former President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

When the matter was called, Tahir, an Assistant Chief State Counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice, informed the court that she had a notice of discontinuance of the case dated Feb. 14 but filed Feb. 15 before the court.

Tahir, said the application was filed pursuant to the powers conferred on the AGF in Section 174(1), Paragraph C of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 107(1) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

“We intend to discontinue the charge number: FHC/ABJ/CR/235/2019 against the 1st and 2nd defendants,” she said

The lawyer, who said that presently, hearing in the matter was yet to commence, urged the court to strike out the charge.

But lawyer to Sowore and Bakare, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, disagreed with Tahir’s submission.

Falana, who argued that contrary to her submission, the matter had been partly heard, prayed the court to dismiss the case.

The senior lawyer reminded that before the matter was reassigned to Justice Nwite, the 1st prosecution witness had been taken before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.

“My learner friend did not remember then. it was Mr Hassan Liman that was prosecuting the matter.

“To that extent, the matter ought to be dismissed,” he added.

Falana, however, commended the AGF and Minister if Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, for taken the bold step.

“I wish to appreciate the position of the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbermi, SAN, for taken a hint from this honourable court because the court said in the last adjournment that this matter would be dismissed, even if heaven will fall.

“Finally, we are compel to profess our sincere gratitude to this honourable court for the threat to have this matter dismissed for want of diligent prosecution,” he said.

He said though he would not be asking for a cost on behalf of the defendants who had been standing trial since 2019, he, however, urged the court to make an order compelling the DSS to return Sowore’s three phones and the sum of N10, 000 seized from him during his arrest.

Falana also prayed the court to order the DSS to release a phone belonging to Bakare and the sum of N1, 500 seized from him during arrest.

The lawyer equally urged the court to make an order for the release of Sowore’s travel documents and the title deeds submitted to the court as conditions for his bail.

Tahir, however, opposed Falana’s application for court to dismiss the case.

She argued that it was in the court record that the matter started denovo (afresh) after it was reassigned.

“My lord, the learner silk pointed out that there was a counsel handling the matter but it was not within my knowledge to confirm that,” she said

She insisted that since the charge had not commenced before the court, the proper thing to do is for the charge to be struck out

Delivering his ruling, Justice Nwite aligned with Tahir that the matter started afresh before him after reassignment.

He held that in any criminal proceeding, the AGF had the power to discontinue a matter, even where a suspect had been committed to prison or was on bail.

“Without much ado, the provision of ACJA is clear and unambiguous,” he said, while striking out the charge.

NAN reports that the judge had, on Feb. 14, threatened to strike out the charge for lack of diligent prosecution.