Sowore: Judge Unhappy With FG Over Late Filing Of Amended Charge

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Sowore Omoyele
Sowore Omoyele
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the Federal Government for late filing of an amended two-count charge against the pro-democracy activist and convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawole Bakare.
The court, therefore, awarded a fine of N200,000 against the Federal Government for stalling the trial of Sowore and Bakare, in the service of same on the defendants in the open court through frivolous adjournment request on Wednesday.
Trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu berated the prosecution over its conduct in the trial of the defendants.
Though the court described the adjournment request that was made by the prosecution as frivolous and uncalled for, it subsequently shifted further proceeding in the case till Thursday.
Justice Ojukwu warned that she would not take a further step in the case unless FG paid the fine or produced the money in court on the next adjourned date.
She noted that the prosecution failed to serve all the necessary documents in the case to the defendants, though the court ordered it to do so about seven weeks ago.
Earlier in the proceeding, Mr. Aminu Alilu, FG’s lawyer, had explained to the court that the amendment of the charge was necessitated by the fact that the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation took over and reviewed the case-file that was handed to it by the Department of State Service, DSS.
He, therefore, applied for an adjournment to effect the service of the amended charge and other accompanying documents that included proof of evidence, on the defendants.
However, the defence lawyer, Mr. Olayinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, urged the court to strike out the charge for lack of diligent prosecution.
Contending that FG was not prepared for the trial, Olumide-Fusika, SAN, insisted that the adjournment request was frivolous.
Responding, Alilu, opposed the application for the charge to be struck out, even as he relied on Section 396 (5) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, which he said allowed parties in a criminal case to seek for an adjournment for up to five times.
He argued that FG had yet to exhaust the five adjournments it was entitled to under the ACJA.
Not persuaded by his argument, though trial Justice Ojukwu declined to strike out the charge, she however awarded N200,000 cost against the prosecution and in favour of the defendants.
Meanwhile, in the amended charge that was drafted by the office of the AGF, Sowore and Bakare, were alleged to have attempted to illegally remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office through a nationwide protest they masterminded on August 5 last year.
They were said to have by their action, committed the offence of treasonable felony, contrary to section 41(a) of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Among those in court who witnessed Sowore’s trial on Wednesday included Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, a former Senator that represented Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, and the erstwhile Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu.
Prof. Soyinka, however, declined to speak to journalists when the proceeding ended.
Specifically, the amended charge against the defendants read: “That you Omoloye Stephen Sowore, Male, Adult of No.1, Mosafejo street, Kiribo, Ese- Odo LGA, Ondo State, Olawale Adebayo Bakare (A.K.A Mandate), male, adult of Olaiya Area, Oshogbo LGA, Osun State and others at large, under the aegis of Coalition for Revolution (CORE), sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to stage a revolution campaign on 5th day of August 2019 tagged “#Revolution Now” aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office otherwise than by constitutional means.
“That you Omoloye Stephen Sowore, Male, Adult of No.1, Mosafejo street, Kiribo, Ese- Odo LGA, Ondo State, Olawale Adebayo Bakare (A.K.A Mandate), male, adult of Olaiya Area, Oshogbo LGA, Osun State and others at large, under the aegis of Coalition for Revolution (CORE), sometimes in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to stage a revolution campaign on 5th day of August 2019 tagged “#Revolution Now” aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office otherwise than by constitutional means.”
It will be recalled that Sowore who is the publisher of an online news platform, Sahara Reporters, was detained for over four months by the DSS and released on December 24, 2019, following a directive from the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The AGF subsequently took over the case-file from the security agency, an action that led to the reduction of the initial charge against the defendants from seven to two counts.