The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed March 25 for the hearing of the N1bn fundamental rights enforcement suit instituted by activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, over their alleged illegal detention prior to their release in December 2019.
Sowore and Bakare, who are being prosecuted by the Federal Government on charges of treasonable felony, had in November 2019, instituted their separate suits against the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Yusuf Bichi, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
Operatives of the DSS arrested Sowore in Lagos on August 2, 2019, and Bakare in Osogbo, Osun State, on August 5, 2019, for organising a protest tagged #RevolutionNow, which the Federal Government alleged was aimed at toppling the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Despite being granted bail on two occasions by different judges, the defendants were only released in December 2019 when domestic and international pressures mounted on the government to obey court orders.
At the resumed hearing of their fundamental rights enforcement suits on Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo in separate proceedings fixed the hearing of the two suits for March 25 after granting the applications for some processes filed out of time by parties.
Sowore was present at Wednesday’s proceedings but Bakare was absent.
Explaining Bakare’s absence, their lawyer, Marshal Abubakar, said he had been confined in Osogbo, Osun State, by an order of the court granting him bail in respect of the charges.
The DG of DSS was represented by its lawyer, Isoun Awo, while Abubakar Nuhu, represented the AGF.
Awo also withdrew an earlier ex parte application which the DSS had filed to extend the period within which the agency could keep the men in detention.
He said the application had been overtaken by events.
The judge subsequently made an order striking out the application.
Sowore and Bakare, who were detained in the custody of the DSS from August, till December 2019, sought N500m damages each in their separate suits.
The separate suits were filed on their behalf by their lead counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN).
They alleged in their suits that their arrest and the physical attack unleashed on them by the operatives of the DSS in Lagos and Osogbo on August 2 and 5, as well as their continued illegal detention by the security agency, constituted a violation of their rights.
They also alleged that the two respondents – the DSS DG and the AGF – violated their various rights guaranteed under sections 35, 36 and 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and Articles 6 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (CAP A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.