Sowore, DSS and Buhari’s Disdain for Rule of Law

The refusal of the Department of State Services (DSS), to release Sowore Omoyele from its custody is a reminder to Nigerians of the numerous times the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has pointedly ignored court orders.

Last week the nation awoke to the drama of officials of the Department of State Security, DSS, pouncing on Sowore to re-arrest him inside the Federal High Court, Abuja, where he had just been granted bail.

Recall that Sowore, a human rights activist, former presidential candidate and founder of an online news agency, Sahara Reporters, was arrested by the DSS in August 2019, after he called for a protest which he tagged RevolutionNow. Finding the nation’s presidential election not credible enough, Sowore had called out his compatriots to embark on a revolution.

A day after that, on August 3, he was charged with treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering, at the Abuja High Court. He was eventually granted bail, pending his arraignment, but the DSS boss, Yusuf Bichi, refused to comply with the court order granting him bail.

In December 2015, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, El Zakzaky, was arrested alongside his wife by the DSS, following an altercation between the Nigeria Army and the Islamic Movement in Zaria. On December 2, 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered their release and further directed that the DSS pay them the sum of N50m as compensation. This order was disobeyed by the DSS and they presently stand trial in another court where they are facing allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace, among others.

The same applies to the former National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Col Sambo Dasuki, who has been detained by the DSS since December 29, 2015, for allegedly illegally possessing firearms and diverting N2.1bn from an arms deal contract.

In court, it was ruled that detaining him for over 2years amounted to a violation of his right to liberty and he was granted bail from the DSS custody. The court ruled that the DSS could invite and interview him between the hours of 9am and 6pm on working days if they had any other reason to interrogate him. His release was ordered by the ECOWAS Court of Justice from the illegal custody on October 2014. Yet, the DSS disobeyed it.

In the same light, the Federal High Court in Abuja directed the Federal Government to set the overall limits for the amounts of consolidated debts of the nation’s federal, state and local governments on February 20, 2018, in a suit filed by the Centre for Social Justice, saying that those limits should be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives within 90 days of the judgement. This judgement was disobeyed.

The same trend was recorded when in March 2016, the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the Federal Government to publish details of the spending of recovered loot by successive governments since 1999. It is an order that is yet to be obeyed, just like Navy Captain Dada Labinjo is allegedly being detained in the underground detention facility of the Defence Intelligence Agency in Abuja since September 2016, in spite of an order of the Federal High Court against that. The DSS has continued to ignore that order. Labinjo is just one of the 67 persons being illegally detained without trial by the Nigerian Navy.

The court is established to bring justice to the citizenry but when that can no longer be guaranteed, especially by persons and institutions expected to ensure that, then all hope may, indeed, be lost.