The Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress AAC) in the 2019 presidential election and leader of #RevolutionNow protester, Omowole Sowore was on Monday arraigned before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the federal high court in Abuja.
The charges leveled against them by the Nigerian government are; treasonable felony, cyber-stalking and fraud among others.
The embattled Sowore who was charged alongside fellow protester, Adebayo Bakare pled not guilty to the two and seven charges preferred against them.
Before the Monday arraignment, Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the same federal high court had ordered for the activist release, but the state security did not comply with the order despite the accused meeting the bail condition. Part of the condition was that his international passport be deposited with the court registrar.
At the hearing, counsel to the first and second defendants, Adeyinka Olumide Fusika who held brief for Femi Falana told the court that the order that the defendants should have access to their lawyers and be released have been breached by the DSS.
Subsequently, he asked the court to decline the request of the DSS until the agency complied with the order asking it to release his client.
Fusika argued that the defendants were not ready to take their pleas, saying that there were two options in arraignment and the choice on whether to plead guilty or not would depend on access and advise given by their (defendants) lawyer.
However, he noted: “Just yesterday, Falana called me and requested that I hold brief for him in this case. The information he gave me was that he was virtually resuming and closing at the office of the DSS and was denied access to the defendants.”
Arguing further, he said: “I was just served with copies of the charges this morning (Monday) and Falana himself was not aware.
“So they are not in position to take their plea.” Fusika submitted.
While opening his argument, prosecution lawyer, Hassan Liman, SAN objected discussion on bail earlier granted the duo, saying that such matter should not be brought before the new court.
But Fusika reminded him that the bail order was not granted by another court, but by the same federal high court and they refused to obey it.
Objecting further, Liman reminded the court that any decision to deny the hearing of the case would be unfair to the prosecution adducing that the fact that Falana did not know they had been served notwithstanding.
After hearing both counsel arguments, the trial judge Ojukwu in a short ruling held that there was no impediment, affirming that a defendant has liberty to take his plea.
“I see no breach of the constitution in these circumstances. Defendants are therefore call upon to take their pleas,” Ojukwu ruled.
Meanwhile, while a seven count charges were leveled against Sowore, just two count charges was leveled against Bakare. But the two of them pled not guilty to all the charges.
Sowore, the first defendant nevertheless refused to own up to running a UBA account as leveled, insisting that he was not guilty as charged.
The trial judge has since adjourned till Friday the 4th to hear the bail application. She then ordered that defendants be taken back to the DSS custody.
Meanwhile, a mild drama played out in the court premises as the first defendant, Sowore while being ushered out of the court premises kept saying “I must address the media”
It was a thug of war as the DSS was preventing him from addressing journalists.
Nevertheless, in about 30 second conversations, Sowore was quoted as saying: ‘I was kept incommunicado for almost 60 days now. This is a lawless country” was all he could say before he was whisked away by the DSS.