“Laws become fragile under the influence of dictators.”
*Wayne Gerard Trotman*
Report reaching us says that the Department of State Services failed to obey a court order directing the release of pro-democracy activist and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, which makes it the second time in about one month.
The agency, which was on Thursday morning served with the latest ruling of a Federal High Court, Abuja, by the court’s bailiff and lawyers to Sowore, acknowledged receipt of the document but refused to obey the directive.
As at the time of filing this report, there was no indication that the agency was ready to honor the court order and release Sowore and Olawale Bakare widely known as Mandate, who had been detained in their custody since August 3 and 5, 2019 respectively.
In a precursor to Thursday’s refusal to honour the order issued by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, the DSS turned back the court’s bailiff and Sowore’s lawyers on Wednesday at around 4:30pm, claiming that the agency could not attend to the document because they had closed since 3:30 pm.
The team was asked to return to the facility at 10:00 am on Thursday to serve the court order.
However, several hours since acknowledging receipt of the fresh order to release the two men, the DSS is refusing to do so despite the defendants perfecting their bail conditions.
Recall that Sowore was arrested in Lagos in the early hours of August 3, 2019, by the DSS for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations to demand a better country from the President Buhari-led administration.
The government views his action as capable of bringing the regime down and has adopted desperate measures to keep him out of circulation for daring to speak truth to power.
The DSS had also earlier on flouted an order issued by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the same court directing it to release Sowore after he met an initial bail condition set.
In his ruling on September 30, Justice Taiwo had asked Sowore to deposit his international passport with the court as a condition for his release by the secret police while setting a date for the commencement of trial on the charges brought against him by the DSS.
But despite meeting that mandate the next day, the secret police refused to release Sowore, instead of filing charges of money laundering and cyberstalking President Muhammadu Buhari against him – a development that has continued to attract condemnation from around the world.
In recent times, the DSS has earned a notorious reputation for flouting court orders by continuing to hold on to all those perceived to staunch critics of President Buhari’s regime.
This news if true should dominate the papers and elicit huge cries from local and international observers.
Even those who don’t like Sowore for whatever reason should view this latest development with alarm. Such disrespect for court judgments only strengthens the impression of countries that Nigeria is a country where laws have absolutely no effect on restraining those in power, which in turn both dissuades foreign investors. These are the last things Nigeria’s economy needs right now.