Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja abruptly suspended sitting and fled her court on Friday as operatives of the Department of State Service invaded the courtroom to rearrest Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, less than 24 hours of releasing him from earlier illegal custody.
Sowore’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), described the development as a “horrendous, bizarre, and barbaric contempt of court” never witnessed under “even the most brutal of past dictators that had ever ruled Nigeria”.
He added, “Under the military regime, the so-called enemies of the government would not be arrested in the web of the court which is considered a sanctuary.
“The military regimes would always show some respect for the court and would only arrest after the person left the court premises.
“What we have witnessed today is alien to Nigeria.”
He said at a meeting which Justice Ojukwu called to be held in her chambers with him and the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), the judge “expressed dismay” over the development as she said, “she was made to flee her court”.
The commotion which paralysed judicial activities in the court broke out on Friday as armed DSS operatives cocked their guns to rearrest Sowore just after the judge had adjourned his trial till February 2020.
Sowore and his co-defendant, Adebayo Bakare, who are being prosecuted on charges of treasonable felony following their call for ‘Revolution Now’ protest, were earlier released from a four-month custody after the 24 hours ultimatum issued the DSS for their release by the judge.
The judge had adjourned till Friday for a report of compliance with his fresh order for the release of the two men.
At the close of Friday’s proceedings, Sowore and Bakare were leaving the courtroom and the judge was already attending to another case, when about 15 armed DSS operatives who appeared to have laid an ambush for them, made to arrest them.
The move forced Sowore and Bakare to turn back to return to the courtroom, but Sowore was quickly held by an operative.
Sowore who managed to free himself ran back into the court with the invading operatives cocking their guns as they went after him.
The development disrupted the ongoing proceedings at Justice Ojukwu’s court.
The judge quickly fled the court and called off the day’s sittings.
Sowore, with his supporters, was able to resist the arrest for a while, raising the alarm that the DSS’ moves were an attempt to kill him.
After the meeting Falana and the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), held with the judge, the defence lawyer criticised the operatives’ move to make an arrest within the court premises.
He offered to drive his client to the DSS headquarters in Abuja.
The operatives agreed with the arrangement as they drove in vehicles in front and behind Falana’s car while they made their way to the DSS headquarters.
Falana said on reaching the DSS office, he was not allowed to meet with Sowore as he was asked to come back later.