By Kurtis Adigba
I don’t intend to bore you with facts already in public domain. But for a few that may not know,or understand the issues,a concise summation may be necessary here.
Sowore,was the presidential candidate of AAC in the 2019 presidential election.He and others lost to President Mohammadu Buhari of the APC. He did not challenge the victory of president Buhari in the Court/Tribunal. He chose a different path-Revolution, after meeting with the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu,a fugitive in New York,USA. NK,has not hidden his desire to destroy Nigeria, the country he called a Zoo.
After their meeting Sowore announced his intention to start a Revolution in Nigeria. A Revolution, is loosely defined as a forcible overthrow of a government,or social order,in favor of a new system. It is not the same thing as a civil protest which is allowed and protected by the Constitution of the country. A Revolution is akin to a coup-an illegal and unconstitutional removal of a duly elected government. And that was why those who knew the danger of Sowore’s declaration, tried to make him clarify his position. He was asked: are you talking about a civil protest by the people? He answered” I’m talking about a Revolution. By this time tomorrow president Buhari will cease to be president of Nigeria. The DSS will be no more”. He didn’t stop there. He took actual steps to birth a Revolution by recruiting people and providing them with an MO-modus operandi.
No sensible and serious government, not even in the countries with the best liberal democracies, will standby and do nothing about such a real threat.
The government arrested Sowore,and arraigned him in court on 7 count charge with the most serous charge being Treason or Treasonable Felony-the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government. The punishment for Treason under our extant law is death or imprisonment for life or with fine or both. It is a serious offense. Ordinarily, a charge of Treason, is a non-bailable one because of the serious penalty-death or imprisonment for life.
But the judge in his wisdom admitted Sowore to bail. He also ordered that Sowore’s travel documents, international passports and others, be deposited with the DSS to prevent Sowore from running away from his impending trial. Sowore and his counsel, Femi Falana, said they have satisfied the conditions for his bail,and accused the DSS of refusing to let him go. The DSS,we are told,is dissatisfied with the ruling of the court,citing threat to National Security. It has also indicated that it will appeal the ruling,and report the judge the NJC.
1. The offense of Treason is a serious one,and is not bailable, ordinarily.
2. But there mere fact of the government charged a person with committing Treason does not mean the person is guilty of Treason. It is only the court that can make that determination,not the government. Otherwise,the government will be accused of being the accuser and judge in her own cause or case.
3. The judge in making the determination on the case should be guided by the evidence before the court. At the current stage of the case, the judge does not have sufficient evidence, in my view to make that determination, and so, should have been guided by other factors such as threat to National Security and the risk of flight from justice by the accused person.
4. It is the responsibility of the government to make a compelling case against granting bail to the accused. The government should or could have used Nnamdi Kanu’s case to make the case that mere deposit of Travel documents, is not enough or sufficient to compel the accused to attend trials;especially for someone like Sowore with dual citizenship. NK deposited his Travel documents with the court,but jumped bail.
4. The judge should have considered Sowore as a flight risk like his associate, Nnamdi Kanu. In the extant case, the benefit of running away from his trial far outweigh his the desire to attend it in view of the serious consequences if he is convicted.
5. Bail is at the discretion of the judge in bailable offenses.The discretion must however, be exercised judicially and judiciously in public interest and in the interest of justice. In my view,the ruling fell short of these ideals or goals. However, the government(DSS) cannot continue to hold and detain Sowore in flagrant disobedience of the order of the court to release him on bail. The same court ordered the government to detain him for 45 days and she obeyed.
The rule of law is the strongest pillar in a democracy. The government, must be seen to be law-abiding and not lawless. It must obey and abide by all judgments and rulings of court, favorable or not. It cannot chose or select the judgment or ruling to obey. Also, an Appeal, is not a stay of judgment or ruling.
The government should release Sowore on bail, and keep him under surveillance while pursing the appeal to overturn the ruling of the court granting him bail.
This is the Right thing for the government to do.
• Adigba is a Lagos-based Lawyer and Political Consultant