Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Court declares arrest of Sowore, other RevolutionNow members unlawful, awards damages

The State Security Service was ordered to pay damages in the sum of N1 million to Mr Sowore.

• March 21, 2022
Omoyele Sowore
Omoyele Sowore. [CREDIT: Tech Crunch]

A federal high court sitting in Abuja has declared as illegal and unconstitutional the arrest of human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, and the violent clampdown on the #RevolutionNow protests in 2019.

In a pronouncement made by Justice Obiora Egwuato on Monday, the State Security Service (SSS) was ordered to pay damages in the sum of N1 million to Mr Sowore as compensation for the violation of his rights.

Mr Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, two days before his widely publicised and organised #RrevolutionNow protests.

On August 5, the protest held massively across the country in the face of unparalleled state repression leading to the arrest of Mr Sowore’s codefendant Olawale Bakare in Osun state.

Messrs Sowore and Bakare were held in the custody of the SSS for over ninety days before being released and confined to Abuja and Osogbo respectively.

Mr Sowore had sought redress from the court in 2019, but the judge assigned to the matter, Justice Ahmed Mohammed did not commence hearing of the case.

Mr Mohammed later recused himself from the matter, handing it over to Justice Inyang Ekwo, who also refused to hear the case for several months.

The pronouncement by the court is expected to be given critical consideration as the treasonable felony suit filed by the SSS against Mr Sowore lingers especially since a federal judge in Lagos had also in May 2020 ordered the federal government to pay N1 million as damages to a Lagos participant of the protest, Olukoya Ogungbeje.

Mr Ogungbeje had prayed the court to declare police disruption of the #RevolutionNow protests in Lagos as illegal and unconstitutional.

The court, presided by Justice Maureen Onyetenu agreed with Mr Ogungbeje and held that the disruption of the protests by the police was “illegal, oppressive, undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

Despite two federal courts and several magistrate courts pronouncing the #RevolutionNow protests as lawful exercise of fundamental human rights, the federal government has continued to taunt Mr Sowore with numerous despotic arrests and incarceration.

Most profoundly, the Buhari regime has confined his movement to Abuja running into the third year.

The federal government has also been reluctant to follow due process in the trial of the charges it brought against Mr Sowore on account of the protests.

“The judgement of the court is a pointer to the fact that the court remains the solace of the oppressed, the last hope of the common man,” human rights lawyer, Festus Ogun says.

“It also puts to shame the despotic regime of President Buhari that cares less about the rule of law, that goes very cold at the hearing of the mobilization of people towards the liberation of our country.

“To protest is a fundamental right guaranteed under sections 39,40 and 41 of our laws and that is what the court has reiterated,” Mr Ogun added.

Mr Ogun further said there is no basis for the continued trial of Mr Sowore and the restriction of his movement was illogical and that the ‘persecution’ needs to stop.

“It is time for the lawless state security service to withdraw all charges against Sowore because you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.

“The court has emphasized again that the protests were lawful and that the arrest and detention were unlawful.

“The SSS must now follow the path of honour and immediately stop the continued malicious persecution of Omoyele Sowore and other members of the #RevolutionNow movement that were unjustifiable arrested,” Mr Ogun added.

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