Nigerian government re-arraigns Sowere, Bakare, as court adjourns trial

Nigerian government re-arraigns Sowere, Bakare, as court adjourns trial

Sowere in court room

The federal government of Nigeria on Thursday Februay 13, 2020 re-arraigned Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyele Sowore and co-accused, Olawale Bakare.

They were arraigned before Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on a two-count charge bordering on treasonable felony.

The prosecution lawyer, who is a chief state council from the ministry of justice, had informed the court on Wednesday, that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has taken over the prosecution of the case and has filed an amended charge.

At the commencement of trial on Thursday, the prosecution lawyer, Aminu Alilu, applied that the previous seven-count charge which was filed in September 2019, be substituted with the amended charge.

Taking their pleas upon re-arraignment, Messrs Sowore and Bakare pleaded not guilty to the charges.

After the accused took their pleas, Mr Alilu, informed the court of the presence of the first witness, whom he said, was ready to give evidence.

However, the lawyer to the defendants, Abdul Mahmud, told the court that they cannot proceed with the trial as the prosecution was yet to comply with the order of the court directing them to provide statements of the witnesses they intend to call.

“We were served with summary statements of Moses Amadi, Usman Bafa, Paul Okafor (technical video engineer) and Paul Clement (financial analyst/investigator),” he said.

The defendant’s lawyer added that the video device and tape mentioned in one of the witness’ statements have not been served on them.

Responding, Mr Alilu said since all his witnesses would be referring to the video evidence, he would need two weeks to enable him to serve the necessary evidence on the defence.

The prosecution also informed the court that the N200,000 cost awarded against them has been paid to the defence team.

The defendant’s lawyer confirmed the payment of the said sum.

The matter was, therefore, adjourned to March 11, 12 and 13, for continuation.

Background

The duo was arrested on August 3 by the State Security Services (SSS) for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow.

But in the new charge, the offences which bordered on fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting the president, which were in the previous seven-count charge, were removed.

The SSS on December 6 rearrested Mr Sowore at the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja a day after he was released from their custody. Officials of the agency forced their way into the courtroom and arrested him.

The publisher and Mr Bakare had been released the night before on the orders of Justice Ojukwu after spending 124 days in SSS custody.

Mr Sowore was later released on December 24, 2019.

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