by Evelyn Okakwu,
The Nigerian government has told the Federal High Court that the charges against the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, attract “capital punishment”, in an argument against his release from custody.
A government lawyer said the court should decide “in the interest of national security” whether Mr Sowore should be given bail.
Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, accused the lawyer of trying to mislead the court.
The prosecution lawyer, G. A Agbadua, made the request on Tuesday after withdrawing an initial application for Mr Sowore’s further detention for 20 days.
Mr Sowore, who was arrested by the SSS more than 50 days, was billed for arraignment on Tuesday. The government accuses him of treason, money laundering and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the opening of session, Mr Agbadua informed the court that he had an ex- parte application for further detention of Mr Sowore.
He, however, noted that information from the prosecution was already before the court suggesting that investigations had already been concluded in Mr Sowore’s case.
In light of the information, Mr Agbadua said his current application had been overtaken by events. He then demanded the withdrawal of the application.
Reacting to the decision by the prosecution to withdraw the application, Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, asked the court to consider the provisions of the law which requires that an order of court be made before a person can be detained.
Mr Falana said the application extending the detention of Sowore for 45 days which was given on August 8 has expired and that the prosecution has no legal reason to continue keeping his client.
“Since the order has expired and there is no request for renewal of the order, we are humbly applying for the release of the respondent in line with section 35 of the constitution,” he said.
The government’s lawyer, Mr Agbadua said the allegations against Mr Sowore attracted “capital punishment” and that bail is restricted in such circumstances.
He added that the information filed before the court suggesting an end to the investigations implies that the prosecution had fulfilled its roles with regards to validly bringing Mr Sowore before the court.
“Our response is simple. Interestingly, the learned silk said the respondent has been charged to court for treason and treasonable felony. My lord the offence is a capital offence and by the provision of the ACJA section 161, an offence that is punishable by death, a defendant is only granted bail under exceptional circumstances.
“For the singular fact that the information has been filed, the prosecution has fulfilled the constitutional requirement of bringing anybody accused before the court.
“My lord, the whole essence is to ensure probity, it is the court that will determine if a person’s right to movement is guaranteed or not, the moment information is filed. Such a person will not be held to be illegally detained,” Mr Agbadua said.
He consequently applied that, “for the interest of justice and national security” the court should determine the “bail or otherwise” of Mr Sowore.
Mr Falana said Mr Agbadua was trying to mislead the court.
He cited the details contained in the charge sheet, saying the allegation against Mr Sowore was treasonable felony which does not attract capital punishment.
He cited a previous case involving the late politician, Moshood Abiola, who was also accused of the same offence.
Mr Falana said Mr Abiola was granted bail on self recognizance when he appeared before the court for trial.
The court has adjourned and will rule on the matter later.