Sowore’s detention: I didn’t receive any letter from US lawmakers – Malami

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami
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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has denied being in receipt of any correspondence from lawmakers of the United State of America over the re-arrest and continued detention of pro-democracy activist and convener of the RevolutionNow Protest, Omoyele Sowore.

In a statement his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu signed and made available to newsmen on Sunday, Malami, insisted that no such letter got to his office before the close of work last Friday.

Besides, he stressed that “foreign policy conventions do not support direct correspondence between the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and serving legislators of a foreign country”.

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be an appropriate Ministry for such correspondence.

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“Attorney-General of the Federation finds media reports on the purported claim of such correspondence to his office, peddled by some unscrupulous elements in the society, as not only inappropriate but inaccurate.

“It is essential to put in the record that the so-called letter has not been received at the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, at the close
of the work of Friday 20th December, 2019”, the statement further read.

There was media reports over the weekend that U.S. lawmakers had in a letter they wrote to the AGF, cautioned him against the desecration of rule of law under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The letter was reportedly signed by six lawmakers; Robert Menendez (Senator), Charles Schumer (Senator), Cory Booker (Senator), Christopher Coons (Senator), Bill Pascrell (Congressman) and John Gotheirmer (Congressman).

It will be recalled that Sowore who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, in the last general election and publisher of an online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, was arrested on August 2, for calling for a nationwide protest against perceived maladministration by the President Buhari-led government.

He was subsequently arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on September 30 and granted bail on October 4 by trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.

However, the Department of State Service, DSS, declined to release Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, who were slammed with a seven-count treasonable felony charge by the Federal Government.

Displeased with conduct of the secret service, the trial Judge, on December 5, gave the agency 24 hours ultimatum to release the defendants from detention, vowing not to take further step in the matter till the order was obeyed.

Consequently, the DSS, temporarily released the defendants same day, only to invade the court the next day, December 6, to re-arrest Sowore, in a manner that elicited wide condemnation to the agency.

The AGF had since directed it to hands-off the trial of the defendants and transfer their case-file to the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Meanwhile, over a week after the AGF took over the case-file, Sowore still remained in custody of the DSS.

The U.S. lawmakers, in their reported letter to the AGF dated December 20, said they were really concerned that established legal procedures and rule of law were not being followed in Sowore’s case.

The said letter read in part: “Disturbing videos of the melee in court are circulating, which appear to show armed agent in court and Mr Sowore being placed in choke hold after which he was re-detained by DSS, though no new charges have since been filed to justify this re-detention. We understand that his case has since been placed within your purview.

“We are pleased to stand alongside Nigeria as a democratic country. As the largest democracy in Africa. Nigeria has an opportunity and responsibility to serve as model for following the established rule of law under its own constitution. And as with all advanced democracies, this includes the lawful application of prosecutorial powers and actions as well as ultimate compliance with judicial rulings. In the case of Mr Sowore, this does not appear to have happened”.

The US lawmakers added that Nigeria must learn how to uphold the basic human rights of its citizens, including their rights to “freedom of expressions and political affiliation without fear of government reprisal and harassment, particularly for opposing or dissenting voices”.

According to them, “Mr Attorney General, we request that you take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of Mr Sowore while he is held in government custody; work to facilitate speedy and fair resolution to the circumstances of his re-detention; and ensure he receives a legally sound and credible trial.”

They emphasised that Sowore’s continued detention would only serve to tarnish Nigeria’s international reputation.

Sowore and his co-defendant were in the charge marked FHC/ ABJ/CR/235/2019, accused of conspiracy, money laundering, cyber-stalking and insulting President Buhari.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Trial Justice Ojukwu adjourned their trial till February 11, 2020. Nigeria News