Femi Falana, the lawyer representing detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, has said that the State Security Service (SSS) cannot report Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for granting bail to the publisher.
In a statement issued today, Femi Falana said Justice Taiwo only exercised his discretion judicially in an application for the bail of a citizen. He also said the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not entertain the agency’s application to extend Mr Sowore’s detention.
Falana said media reports on the plan to report Justice Taiwo to NJC was misleading as the quotes in the report were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources. He urged Nigerians to disregard the report.
“I have since confirmed that the fictitious report is a figment of the fecund imagination of the writer, Mr Akuntunde. Hence, the report and the quotes therein were not credited to any named official of the SSS but to some anonymous sources,” Falana said.
He described the report as a desperate bid to divert public attention from the contemptuous conduct of the SSS, which he said hurriedly pressurised the Federal High Court to assign the case for the arraignment of Sowore.
“From the information at our disposal, the report was designed by The Nation to blackmail and intimidate the Judges of the Federal High Court with respect to the trial of Mr Sowore.
I wish to state without any fear of contradiction, that the Federal High Court is competent to admit a person charged with a capital offence to bail by virtue of section 161 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”
Falana said Sowore has not been charged with capital offence contrary to the position of the SSS. “Treasonable felony is not a capital offence under section 41 of the Criminal Code. Even under the most brutal dictatorial regimes in Nigeria, our courts did not hesitate to uphold the fundamental right of the victims of repression to personal liberty, including those who were charged with treasonable felony,” he added.
“Having regard to the facts and circumstances of this case, the SSS cannot complain against the handling of the case by Justice Taiwo who did not even entertain our application to quash the order for Mr Sowore’s detention for 45 days.”
Falana said it was due to the fact that the SSS counsel, Godwin Agbadua, withdrew his motion ex parte for an order to further detain Mr Sowore for additional 20 days that led to the judge granting him bail.
“To that extent, the National Judicial Council has no power to sanction a judicial officer for exercising his/her discretion judicially and judiciously in an application for the bail of a citizen.
In other words, since the NJC is not an appellate court it cannot review the order for the conditional release of Mr Sowore from illegal custody.
” Instead of joining the global campaign for the release of Mr Sowore from illegal custody as ordered by the federal high court, Mr Akintunde 1 of The Nation newspaper has colluded with the forces of reaction to intimidate the Judiciary.
But it is a mission that is bound to fail as no dictator has ever succeeded in cowing the courts and the Nigerian people to submission.”
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