The Take It Back Movement has described the failure of Justice Nkeonye Maha of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to hear the motion presented by its convener, Omoyele Sowore, on Wednesday over his arrest and continued detention by the Department of State Service, as an indication of confusion.
Sowore, who was arrested by the DSS in Lagos on August 3 and had been held since that time, filed a motion challenging an ex-parte order granting the secret police 45 days to keep him pending investigations into his involvement in alleged terrorism.
Through #RevolutionNow movement, the pro-democracy activist had called on Nigerians to pour out to the streets on August 5 to protest bad leadership in the country.
Despite his arrest by the DSS two days to the planned march, Nigerians took to the streets in about 21 cities across the country to express their frustration at the current state of the nation.
Reacting to the situation in a statement by its Director-General, Dr Joshua Adeoye, Take it Back Movement said, “Today, we saw the Nigerian judicial system plunge to new depths of justice evasion and surrender to governmental influence as the hearing brought by Omoyele Sowore and his lawyers challenging his unlawful detention by the DSS was negated by the judge, Hon. Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha, who shamelessly argued that she was unable to overturn the ruling of a “learned brother” despite all of the multiple precedents and the rules of court empowering her to do so.
“This faltering inability to rule decisively on a case is not a trait that typically characterises Justice Maha.
“We know, for example, that she rapidly granted a motion ex-parte in a case at the Federal High Court to stop the trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen in his corruption ordeal earlier this year.
“Her ruling served to restrain the Code of Conduct Tribunal from proceeding to hear the charge against Onnoghen, her very close friend and one-time boss, even when overwhelming evidence indicated he had a case to answer.
“It is therefore, not immediately clear whether her jurisdiction ends with friendships and alliances.
“It is also worth noting that the counsel to the DSS did not challenge the powers of the judge to hear Omoyele Sowore’s motion. He only asked for time to study the processes, claiming they had only just been received.
“Mr Femi Falana even reminded the court of the pattern of preferential treatment being meted out to the DSS by the judiciary so far.
“Justice Taiwo Taiwo who had referred the case to her, had granted audience to the DSS within 48 hours of receiving their counter-motion but neglected to reassign Sowore’s case to Justice Maha till August 27, 18 days after Sowore filed his appeal on August 9.
“Sadly, all these facts were ignored as she steam-rolled to her obviously pre-meditated ruling.
“To cap it all, she even denied Mr Falana the opportunity to orally apply for the bail of his client, allowed under the same terrorism act that the DSS wrongly relied upon to abduct and illegally detain Sowore.
“In any court in the world, the submissions of Sowore’s erudite legal team would have already highlighted the clear-cut pattern of human right violations he has suffered at the hands of the Nigerian Government and its private army, the Department of State Services; and he would be walking free as we speak.
“But this is Nigeria, the law is not absolute; it is merely a tool for the powers that be.
“There can only be one summary of the charade that was witnessed in court today – a high court judge declined to hear an appeal, claiming she did not have the jurisdiction to hear a high court case presented by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria because for her, the consequence of falling afoul of her paymasters would have been higher than her sworn oath to obey the law.
“Today is consequently, a sad day for justice anywhere that word has meaning.
“But the Take it Back Movement remains undeterred. We will not relent until we secure unconditional, unrestricted freedom for Sowore.
“There is work to be done in this nation, and the man who has become a beacon of hope to many cannot be left to languish in detention.
“Nigerian leaders must realise that it is no longer business as usual, and that, you cannot kill an idea whose time has come.”