Human rights lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, has condemned reports that the Nigerian Government was making moves to punish Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, for granting pro-democracy campaigner and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, bail in a case involving him and the Department of State Services.
Expressing his views in a post on Facebook, Ogunye described the news as a deliberate attempt to intimidate the judiciary into doing the bidding of the government, which runs foul to the rule of law.
He said, “We are of the opinion that the story is meant to prejudice the enforcement of Omoyele Sowore’s right to liberty whenever he may be arraigned in court on the said charge/information, and frustrate the prospect of his being granted a post charge and arraignment bail.
“The story is pre-emptive and published to scare the trial judge that may preside over his charge, arraignment and trial to refuse to exercise his discretionary power to grant him bail whenever he is eventually arraigned.
“And we believe the story is meant to intimidate, harass and embarrass Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who acted appropriately, judicially and very judiciously in granting Omoyele Sowore bail upon the expiration of the 45 days he had previously granted the SSS to detain and investigate him regarding the criminal allegations made against him.”
The rights lawyer also noted that contrary to the stance of the government against Sowore’s bail, all criminal offences including capital offences are bailable in line with Section 161 (1 & 2) and 162 of ACJA, 2015.
He claimed that while the Nigerian Government had the right to appeal the bail granted to Sowore, it should not misinform the public on court’s judgment and not also smear the reputation of the judicial arm of government.
He added, “We concede that the Nigerian Government may lodge an appeal against the decision of the court granting Omoyele Sowore bail.
“It may lodge a petition against the judge if it so wishes and if there are justifiable and reasonable grounds to do so.
“But it cannot, lawfully and rightly, resort to a newspaper or media publication to scandalise the court, misrepresent court proceedings and decisions, or impugn the character or judicial reputation of the judge, twisting the law and facts of this matter.”
Justice Taiwo had ordered the DSS to release Sowore on bail on Tuesday after the expiration of a 45-day ex-parte order to detain him while he is investigated for acts of terrorisms and other offences.
But despite the court ruling, President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime has refused to release him, forcing condemnation from around the world.
Sowore was arrested in Lagos on August 3, 2019 by operatives of the DSS for calling on Nigerians to pour out to the streets to express their anger at the poor state of governance in the country.