Appeal Court lifts movement restriction imposed on Omoyele Sowore
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Wednesday, lifted the movement restriction imposed by a High Court on human rights activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore
Mr Sowore announced the Court of Appeal’s decision on his Facebook wall, noting that the court described the restriction of his movement to Abuja as excessive
Court of Appeal in Abuja saying my restriction to Abuja is excessive and now lifted,” his Facebook post read on Wednesday.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had, in 2019, restricted Mr Sowore’s movement to Abuja as part of the bail conditions granted him in his trial on charges of treasonable felony.
The Attorney-General of the Federation’s office had filed the charges against him after the State Security Service (SSS) arrested him for calling for a nationwide #RevolutionNow protest against President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in August 2019.
He and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, who was arrested by the SSS in Osogbo, Osun State, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were subsequently granted bail on terms and conditions they described as “stringent”.
The controversial bail conditions imposed on Mr Sowore by then trial judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, included a N100 million bail bond with two sureties, one of whom was required to deposit N50 million cash in the court’s bank account as security.
The two sureties to be produced by him must also be resident in Abuja and have landed property of the same value with the bail bond in the Nigerian capital city.
The judge also ordered that the sureties must deposit in the court’s registry, the original title documents of their Abuja property.
She also ordered that the sureties must swear to affidavits of means and produce evidence of tax clearance for years 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In addition to ordering the activist to deposit his passport in the registry of the court, the judge also barred him from travelling outside Abuja throughout the period of his trial.
She also barred him from addressing any gathering throughout the period of his trial.
In the case of the second defendant, Mr Bakare, Mrs Ojukwu granted him bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety, who must be resident and have property worth that sum in Abuja.
The surety was also required to deposit the title document for the property in the court’s registry, while Mr Bakare would have to deposit his passport.
His surety would also be required to depose to an affidavit of means and submit evidence of tax celarance for years 2016, 2017, 2018.
The judge also barred Mr Bakare from addressing any gathering pending the conclusion of their trial.
She also ordered that Mr Bakare should not move out of Osogbo, the Osun State capital, where he is resident, unless he was to attend trial in Abuja.
She ordered both defendants to be remanded in prison pending when they would meet the bail conditions.
On October 21, 2019, Mrs Ojukwu granted a partial variation of the bail conditions following an application by Mr Sowore.
In her ruling, the judge set aside the bail condition requiring Mr Sowore’s surety to deposit N50 million in the court’s bank account as security.
Mr Sowore met the other bail conditions and the judge subsequently signed a warrant for his release.
But still dissatisfied, Mr Sowore approached the Court of Appeal, seeking to have the bail conditions restricting his movement to Abuja and barring him from addressing public gatherings overturned.
The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Sowore’s appeal in part on Wednesday by setting aside the bail condition restricting his movement to Abuja.
But the court refused to grant the other prayer calling for the setting aside the condition barring him from speaking to the press.
Reacting to the Court of Appeal’s decision, Mr Sowore told our reporter that he never allowed the restrictions imposed by the court to cow him.
One of the activist’s lawyers, Marshal Abubakar, who is of Femi Falana’s law firm, said the Court of Appeal’s judgment aligned with his team’s position that “a court of law cannot grant bail to a person who is still presumed innocent with one hand and take it with another.”
He added, “The courts have been vehement on the insistence that courts of law are bound to exercise their discretion judicially and judiciously in area they have discretion.
“Restricting Sowore to ‘Abuja prison’ if I’m to paraphrase the words of mi Lord Justice Augie JSC in Ibori VS FRN is excessive, draconian, arbitrary and overreaching.”
He added that Wednesday’s judgement is the fourth Mr Sowore had against the government within a year.’
In March this year, the Federal High Court in Abuja declared Mr Sowore’s arrest over his 2019 #RevolutionNow protest as illegal.
Delivering the judgement in the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Mr Sowore, the judge, Obiora Egwuato, ordered the SSS to pay N1 million to the activist.
This came about three months after another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Anwuli Chikere, ordered the SSS to pay N2 million to Mr Sowore over the unlawful seizure of his mobile phone at the point of his arrest in 2019.
Delivering the judgement in the human rights suit filed by Mr Sowore, the judge, Mrs Chikere, on December 8, 2021, also ordered the SSS to immediately release the iPhone and a cash of N10,000 which were alleged to have been forcefully taken away from him without court warrant.
The decisions came as an affirmation of court decisions that had validated the #RevolutionNow protest, and declared the arrest of others who participated in it as illegal.
Despite the court decisions, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation continues to prosecute Mr Sowore and his co-defendants for organising the #RevolutioNow protest at the same Federal High Court whose decisions have validated the protests.
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