A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to pay N2,000,000 to human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore for breach of his fundamental rights.
Sowore, the publisher of SaharaReporters, had instituted a suit against the DSS to compel the agency to return his phones seized since August 2019 when he was first arrested.
In a judgment delivered on Wednesday, Justice Anwuli Chikere described the action of the secret police as illegal and a violation of the activist’s rights.
She also asked the DSS to apologise to Sowore in two national dailies.
The activist’s lawyer, Mrs Funmi Falana had prodded the DSS lawyer on the illegality of the seizures when the case came up on December 1.
But the agency’s lawyer could not provide a valid court order that led them to seize the phones and take N10,000 from his hotel room during his abduction in August 2019.
The DSS had told Justice Chikere that the phones were “recovered” during his arrest and not seized.
The agency added that the phones were still being checked for links to terrorism.
Two lawyers from the Ministry of Justice also argued that they were raising preliminary objection to the lawsuit because Sowore was undergoing trial before another federal judge.
Falana, however, faulted the positions, while informing the judge that apart from not obtaining a court order to seize the phones, the government had also refused to return the phones and monies despite entreaties.
She further stated that the charge sheets produced in court did not state that the phones were part of the evidence before the federal judge.
She urged the judge to dismiss the preliminary objections and order the return of Sowore’s phones as well as pay N20 million in damages to the applicant.
SaharaReporters had on December 24, 2019, reported that though the DSS released Sowore following an order by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), officials of the secret police failed to return his mobile phones apparently in an attempt to monitor his communication and deprive him of important contacts stored on the devices.
Sowore was first arrested on August 3, 2019, for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations to demand a better country from the government.
He had remained in detention until December 5, 2019, when he was briefly released on bail.
On December 6, he was rearrested inside the Federal High Court, Abuja by DSS operatives and was kept in custody until Tuesday, December 24, 2019, when Malami gave the latest release order.