The Department of State Security (DSS) on Saturday shunned lawyers, associates and friends of the detained activist, Omoyele Sowore, who had gathered at the agency’s national headquarters in Abuja, to fetch him home.
The DSS had said, late on Friday, that the only reason Sowore had not been let off the hook was that no one had come to take him home.
Although, Sowore’s chief counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) had immediately disputed the DSS’s claim, several other members of his legal team and friends stormed the agency’s headquarters yesterday morning, confident of taking him home at last, having perfected his bail condition.
They included the Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Musikilu Mojeed and activist Deji Adeyanju.
Mojeed arrived the premises at 8am.
The crowd was told by DSS front desk personnel that no official was available to attend to them on Sowore.
They tried to reach, by phone, the DSS spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya, who issued the Friday statement on why Sowore had not been released, but he did not pick the calls.
He also did not respond to text messages.
The Premium Times team also called the DSS lawyer handling Sowore’s case, Emmanuel David, but he said he could not comment or help in any way on the matter.
He asked that all inquiries should be directed to Afunanya.
Abubakar Marshal, a member of Sowore’s legal team got to the DSS office at about 10am accompanied by the activist’s relations but was denied entry by security guards.
The guards said they needed to get clearance from their superior officers, sparking an exchange of hot words between them and the lawyer.
Marshal vowed not to leave until Sowore was released.
As the drama unfolded, Marshal got a phone call from a top official of the DSS who said he was not available.
This seemed to have angered some people in the crowd who started shouting and cursing.
They threatened to remain there until Sowore was released to them.
Adeyanju said: “They have refused to release Sowore to me or his lawyer here.”
Afunanya had said on Friday that no person had turned up to take delivery of Sowore since a court order was received for his release.
He said the clarification was necessary for reasons of accountability adding that the service had received the court order for his release.
According to him, the Court had been properly briefed on the development and steps are being taken to ensure compliance with the order.
He said the service was not a lawless organisation and would never obstruct justice or disobey court orders.
Afunanya pledged the commitment of the service to do the needful upon completion of the appropriate processes for Sowore’s release.
In a swift response to Afunanya’s statement, Falana said the agency was off the track.
He said Sowore’s lawyers waited for four hours on Thursday to take him home from the DSS detention facility without success.
He said: “On 6/11/19 the bailiff of the Federal High Court wanted to serve the reproduction warrants issued by the court on the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS). But the SSS asked the bailiff to call back at 10.00 am on 7/11/19. The bailiff did and was able to serve the reproduction warrants on the DG of the SSS.
“Upon acknowledging the service of the reproduction warrants ,the SSS assured the bailiff and five lawyers from the defence team that our clients would be released yesterday (Thursday). But the SSS decided not to release our clients to our lawyers who waited in vain in the agency’s headquarters for not less than four hours.
“When Sowore said that he would not make a statement without first consulting with me the SSS management called me on phone on 6/8/19. Assuming the SSS had wanted to release our clients since yesterday the management would have contacted me.
“It is pertinent to point out that the meaning of reproduction warrant issued by a trial court is that the defendants be produced for the purpose of releasing them having met their bail conditions. In the instant case, the federal high court did not order the SSS to hand over Messrs Sowore and Bakare to any person but to produce them for the purpose of releasing them having met the suffocating bail conditions imposed on them by the trial court.
“Even though the SSS disobeyed the order of Justice Taiwo for the release of Mr. Sowore on 24/9/19 it has turned round to announce its readiness to comply with the order of Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and Bakare from illegal custody.”
Justice Taiwo Taiwo granted the bail on Wednesday after relaxing the stringent conditions that were initially attached to it.
He directed the DSS to release Sowore immediately.
But when Mr Sowore’s lawyers and associates attempted to serve the order on the SSS at about 3:30 p.m., the agency drove them away, saying it had closed for the day.
On Thursday, the SSS acknowledged receipt of the court order and said its compliance was underway.