• Okei-Odumakin Condemns Action
• As Court Adjourns Trial Until February Next Year
There was pandemonium at the Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, yesterday, as operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) stormed the court in a bid to re-arrest the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, both facing charges of treasonable felony brought against them by the federal government.
In reaction, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in a piece made available to The Guardian, titled: “Lessons From The African Wild Dog (Lycaeon Pictus),” said: “A few years ago, I watched the video of a pack of the famed African wild dogs hunt, eventually bring down, and proceed to devour a quarry. It was an impala, antelope family.
“The pack isolated the most vulnerable looking member of the herd- it was pregnant- pursued it, until it fled to a waterhole which, for such animals, is the nearest thing to a sanctuary.
“A few minutes ago, almost as it was happening, I watched the video of a pack of the DSS, bring down, and fight over their unarmed, totally defenceless quarry within the sanctuary of a court of law. I found little or no difference between the two scenarios, except that the former, the wild dogs, exhibited more civilised table manners than the DSS court manners.
“Only yesterday (Thursday), in my commentary on the ongoing Sowore saga, I pointed out the near perfect similarity between plain crude thuggery and the current rage of court disobedience. Little did I suspect that the state children of disobedience would aspire to the level of the African wild dogs on a pack hunt.”
He continued: “I apologise for underestimating the DSS capacity for the unthinkable. I reiterate the nation’s concern, indeed alarm, about the escalating degradation of the judiciary through multiple means, of which disobedience of court orders is fast becoming the norm.
“May I remind this government that disobedience calls to disobedience, and that disobedience of the orders of the constitutional repository of the moral authority of arbitration- the judiciary- can only lead eventually to a people’s disregard of the authority of other arms of civil society, a state of desperation that is known, recognised and accepted as-civil disobedience.
“It is so obvious- state disobedience leads eventually to civil disobedience, piecemeal or through a collective withdrawal of recognition of other structures of authority. That way leads to chaos but- who set it in motion? As is often the case, the state, unquestionably. Such a state bears full responsibility for the ensuing social condition known as anomie.
“It has become imperative and urgent to send this message to President-General Buhari: “Rein in your wild dogs of disobedience. And for a start, get a trainer to teach them some basic court manners.”
On her part, President of Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, in a statement titled: “Sowore: This is crossing The Line,” while condemning the DSS action, said, “Our attention has been drawn to the brazen and barbaric invasion of the Federal High Court where Omoyele Sowore was being tried.
“The gangsteric conduct of the men said to be DSS operatives, which led to the chasing away of the presiding Judge, harassment of lawyers and journalists and manhandling of Sowore, was a crude assault on the hallowed seat of justice and further desecration of our judiciary.
“Any society that tolerates this thuggish disposition of its security forces is lost beyond redemption.
“The only way the government can attempt to prove it does not sanction this bestial conduct is to fish out those responsible for this barbaric conduct and ensure the rule of law is followed in the case of Sowore.”
Attempts to get the view of the DSS proved abortive.
Justice Ojukwu had on Thursday adjourned the matter until yesterday, after the court issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the DSS to release both Sowore and Bakare in compliance to its earlier order, as a result of which they were released on Thursday, few hours after the order was given.
Expectedly, the parties, led by their Counsel, were in court for commencement of hearing on the charge. Justice Ojukwu, at the brief sitting, even commended the DSS for prompt compliance before adjourning the matter till next year.
Both the Prosecution and Defense Counsel, Liman Hassan (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), respectively, had agreed for an adjournment, prompting the court to adjourn until February 11, next year for the commencement of trial.
Drama, however, ensued when the DSS operatives tried to re-arrest Sowore in court. Unfortunately, the effort was met with strong resistance, as Sowore’s supporters shielded the defendant from arrest.
But the resistance was short-lived, as the operatives finally whisked Sowore and Bakare away to their headquarters in Abuja after one hour of tough encounter.
Since they could not take him from the courtroom, they waited for him to come out to the gate from where he was taken away around 10:46 am.
Both Sowore and Bakare were taken away alongside Falana, in his (Falana’s) car, driven by a DSS operative.
Even when they tried to smuggle him out, the officials rushed after them. Moving down- stairs, Falana insisted that they must do that at the court premises.
A video footage later emerged of a man robed in wig and gown hitting Sowore with an object believed to be an injection in the courtroom during the struggle.
In the video, the ‘lawyer’ moved stealthily while Sowore was being held down on the floor. Upon being hit with the object, Sowore noticed the man and managed to ask him: “What did you hit me with?” But the man quickly moved away from the scene.
Sowore had earlier raised the alarm that the Nigerian government wanted him dead, which he restated during the fracas at the court premises, where he had appeared for a fundamental human rights suit filed against the DSS.