By Robert Egbe
Activist-lawyer Mr Femi Falana on Monday revealed “the real reason” the Department of State Services (DSS) is prosecuting the convener of RevolutionNow Movement Omoyele Sowore and his activist co-defendant Olawale Bakare.
Falana linked the defendants’ trial to the exposure of corrupt practices that could incite the people against the government, through Sowore’s news medium, Sahara Reporters.
He spoke in Lagos during the public presentation of the third edition of the ‘Compendium of High profile corruption cases in Nigeria’ published by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation.
The book chronicles the country’s biggest corruption cases, some lasting longer than 12 years.
The lawyer criticised The Presidency on Sunday for allegedly justifying Mr Sowore’s treatment by the DSS.
“Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.
“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States of America,” Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, wrote in a statement sent to The Nation.
But, responding, Falana said: “When we were growing up it was almost a crime, or for those of us who were religious, it was a sin to tell a lie, but when a government uses the apparatus of the State to lie, it becomes a very difficult assignment and so I’ve been very busy all day trying to expose the lies told by the government over the weekend, because nobody can justify the gangsterism that took place in court on Friday.”
Falana was referring to the DSS’ alleged attempted rearrest of Sowore in a Federal High Court courtroom last Friday.
“You can’t be producing books like this, this is hate speech,” he said, praising the HEDA for publishing the compendium.
“… When they are talking of hate speech, it’s not about insulting somebody, it’s about exposing corruption. Exposing injustice in our country, exposing criminality and exposing the massive violations of the rights of our people, that is what they mean by hate speech.
“Hate speech is when you expose corruption and they believe that could incite the people against the government. That’s why they are charging Sowore, it’s not about that protest, it’s about Sahara Reporters.
“Garba Shehu said it yesterday. ‘This guy is not just an ordinary politician, he has a powerful medium.’ He meant Sahara Reporters, so, they felt that if Sowore is allowed to enjoy his restricted freedom, bail, he may still continue to publish Sahara Reporters, so let’s put him in, whether the heavens will collapse or not. That’s what is going on.”
He also revealed that he got accommodation for Sowore and Bakare in one of Abuja’s best hotels with government money following their release on bail last Thursday.
He said he lodged them at the Transcorp Hilton after receiving the N100, 000 fine imposed on DSS’s lawyer by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
He accused the DSS of deliberately prolonging Sowore’s trial and detention by refusing to tender in court its witness statements, adding that the Presidency was also subjecting Sowore to media trial.
Falana said: “But they can’t go on like that indefinitely. If they are unable to go on next time, we are going to ask the judge to strike out the case.
“But you know what the judge did on the (December) 5th?
“The court said because you have failed to serve the document on the defendants, go and pay them N100, 000. Not the DSS, their lawyer. You either handle the case or not. It was their lawyer that was penalised and that is in line with Section 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“So, we are making progress. They’ve paid already. In fact, that was the money we used to get an accommodation for them (Sowore and Bakare) in Transcorp Hilton. You know that’s the best hotel in town, I put them there, with the government money.”
Falana, who commended HEDA for the book, described it as a “wonderful compilation.” He challenged Nigerians to go beyond HEDA and own the campaign against corruption.