A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday ordered that only the counsel, parties involved and accredited journalists would be allowed into the courtroom in the trial of Convener, #RevolutionNow Movement, Omoyele Sowore.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Sowore and Bakare were, on February 13, rearraigned on two counts of treasonable felony, against the initial seven counts filed against them in September 2019.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Delivering a ruling, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, noted that accredited journalists were not excluded from the court.
“I am inclined to grant the application in line with COVID-19 protocol,” she said.
She adjourned the matter until January 25, February 4 and February 5 for trial continuation.
Earlier, Rasheed Olawale, first prosecution witness told the court that no revolution took place in the country on August 5, 2019.
Olawale, who is a Department of State Services operative, told Justice Ojukwu when he was being cross examined by Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, at the resumed trial.
Although in the new charge, the offences bordering on fraud, cyber-stalking, among others, were removed, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation accused them of staging “a revolution campaign on 5th day of August, 2019, tagged, #RevolutionNow, aimed at removing the president during his term in office by unconstitutional means.
At the resumed trial, Olawale said he was a member of the team that arrested Sowore on August 3, 2019 in the midnight at Montana Hotel, Lagos.
When Falana asked why he was not arrested in the day time, the PW1 said Sowore was arrested having identified his location because he was not stable in a place.
He denied that the 1st defendant (Sowore) was tortured on his arrest.
“We did not arrest any other person to take us to his hotel room,” he said.
The officer, who said he wouldn’t know if Sowore’s lawyer should have been contacted before his arrest, said he was only part of the team that arrested him.
He said after his arrest, he was handed over to appropriate authority at the DSS Command in Lagos.
The witness said he got to know later that he was moved to Abuja the next day.
Olawale testified that on August 1, 2019, Sowore was noticed propagating RevolutionNow protest and sensitising people.
When Falana asked if any member of the movement engaged in violence during the sensitisation, he said, “To my knowledge, nobody engaged in violence that time.”
He, however, said that intelligence report revealed that Sowore made a statement that there would be a revolution on August 5, 2019.
He acknowledged that on that day; August 5, 2019, there were protests in parts of the country.
When the lawyer asked if he was aware that there were protests in Lagos, Ogun, Cross River, Ondo State and others, the witness said: “I heard about it.”
He said Sowore did not participate in the protests on August 5, 2019, because he was in custody of the DSS at the national headquarters.
When Falana asked if there was any revolution on August 5, 2019, in any part of the country, the witness said: “No, my lord,.”
The officer said he was aware that those who took part in the protests were charged with unlawful assembly in Lagos, Ogun, Cross River, Ondo State and other parts.
When the lawyer asked if he was aware that those arrested were later discharged and acquitted, he said it was not to his knowledge.
Falana also asked him if he was aware that Justice Maureen Onyetenu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had declared that the protest of August 5, 2019, was legitimate, the witness responded with a negative answer.
He said he was also not aware that N1 million damages was awarded in favour of the defendants.
The witness added that he was not aware that the two telephones seized from Sowore by his office had not been returned to him.
Counsel to Bakere, the 2nd defendant in the case, R. O. Adakole, adopted all the questions asked by Falana.
Adakole, who held the brief of Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, asked Olawale if he was also part of the team that arrested his client.
“No, I am not part of the team that arrested the defendant,” he said.
When the lawyer asked if any revolution took place on August 5, 2019, in any part of the country, the witness said: “No my lord.”
Justice Ojukwu then discharged the witness from the witness box.
However, counsel for the AGF, Bagudu Sani, told the judge that he had an application to move.
According to him, it is a motion on notice dated March 5 and filed same date.
The lawyer, who said that the application was brought pursuant to Section 36(4) of the constitution, said they sought for three reliefs.
He prayed the court to exclude persons who did not have any connection with the ongoing trial henceforth from the courtroom except the parties, counsel and accredited journalists.
Sani, who applied that the witness box should be barricaded to shield the witnesses from the public except for the counsel and the accredited journalists, also urged the court to direct that the real names and addresses of prosecution witnesses should not be disclosed.
He said the application was made in the interest of fair hearing.
However, Falana objected to the application, saying he had filed a counter affidavit on March 9 in opposition to the requests.
According to him, Section 36 of the constitution says the defendants are entitled to public trial.
“If the trial will not be public, cogent and convincing reasons must be adduced by the prosecution,” he said.
He argued that by the list of witnesses and exhibits filed by the production, “the names of witnesses are listed by them.”
“It has already disclosed the identity of each of their witnesses together with their witness statements and the roles they play in this case.
“We submit that this is not one of those cases where the prosecution wishes to hide the identity of the witnesses for security reasons.
“One of the witnesses has already given evidence in the open without any fear of intimidation or harassment,” he said.
The lawyer said it seemed the prosecution team was stuck midway to the trial.
“We urge you to refuse this application. It is sheer waste of judicial time of the court,” he said.
Sani adopted the submission of Falana.
In her ruling, Justice Ojukwu noted that the prosecution claimed that its witnesses had expressed fear that members of the #RevolutionNow could attack them.
She, however, said that the prosecution did not give any evidence to prove that members attacked any one in the past.