The Federal High Court in Abuja Monday declared the arrest of an activist and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, over his 2019 #RevolutionNow protest, as illegal.
Delivering judgement in the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Mr Sowore, the judge, Obiora Egwuato, ordered the State Security Service (SSS) to pay N1million 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 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.
Monday’s decision came as another affirmation of court decisions that had validated the #RevolutionNow protest, and declared the arrest of others who participated in it as illegal, although the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation continues to prosecute him for organising the protest.
One of Mr Sowore’s lawyers, Marshal Abubakar, who is of the law firm of a prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, described Monday’s judgement as another victory recorded against the “notorious” SSS.
He said it was an affirmation of the rights of Mr Sowore and other Nigerians “to protest, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and right to movement.”
Mr Sowore was sensationally arrested in a Gestapo manner by SSS operatives in Lagos on August 3, 2019, for planning to organise a protest tagged: “#RevolutionNow”.
It was the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s first major clampdown on Mr Sowore who had at the time become critical of the regime over its poor handling of the economy, insecurity, and other major issues of governance.
The SSS continued to detain Mr Sowore despite court orders for his release.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation subsequently charged him and Olawale Bakare, who was arrested in Osogbo, Osun State, in connection to the protest, with treasonable felony, among other offences.
The prosecution accused them of planning to topple Mr Buhari’s government.
Despite the trial court granting fresh bail to Mr Sowore, the SSS still refused to release him until the government eventually bowed to local and international pressure in December 2019.
Since his release, Mr Sowore has continued to organise protests against the Buhari administration and has on different occasions been arrested, manhandled or detained in the process.
Since 2019, his trial has not made any meaningful progress, but his movement remains restricted to Abuja as part of the bail conditions granted him.
The trial has now been stalled after the former trial judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, was transferred out of the Abuja division of the court.