The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday has reviewed the bail conditions earlier granted to the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore, who was arraigned on a four-count charge ranging from insulting President Muhammadu Buhari to money laundering, was given bail condition of paying N150 million and had his movement restricted to Abuja.
Femi Falana (SAN), who is representing Sowore, had described the conditions attached to his bail as “stringent”
After the hearing, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu has now varied Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare’s bail conditions.
The court on October 4 granted bail of N100 million to Mr Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, N50 million.
Ms Ojukwu said Mr Sowore should produce two sureties in like sum.
Of that amount, N50 million was to be deposited with the court while the balance was to be put in place should Mr Sowore jump bail.
The court said Mr Sowore’s sureties must deposit tax clearance certificates for three years, 2016 to 2018, and documents of landed properties in Abuja.
The sureties were also to deposit affidavit of means for their assets.
The court ruled that when released after meeting his bail conditions, Mr Sowore should remain in Abuja till the case is determined while his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, should not leave his place of residence in Osogbo except for the trial.
The court also said Mr Bakare should present one surety and a bail bond of N50 million.
But on Monday, Justice Ojukwu said the court has right to grant bail and may review it if necessary.
She set aside the N50 million security deposit by one of the sureties and also reduced the N50 million bail of the second defendant, Mr Bakare.
Mr Sowore, who was arrested on August 3 by Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow, was granted bail for the second time on Friday.
A previous bail granted the defendant on September 24 was not complied with by the SSS.
The two accused are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.
There have been growing calls for the release of the accused persons, with many condemning the government of President Buhari for their arrests and charges.
Mr Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, defended his client’s choice of the word “revolution” for the August 5 protest that later held in some parts of the country.
The lawyer said even the Supreme Court does not regard a revolution as a lawful offence.
“Even a coup that sustains the statuesque has been said not to be a revolution by the Supreme Court,” he said.
Mr Falana said the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari staged protests after they lost previous elections.
“Buhari called for a revolution in 2011 like that of Egypt which was evidently violent.
“Only in 1948 was someone charged for staging a protest. And the charge was sedition,” he said.
Mr Falana asked the court to grant Mr Sowore bail on self recognizance.
He said various courts had decided on the rights of Nigerians to peaceful protest and that the court had ruled during a case instituted by Mr Buhari’s party that a police permit was unnecessary for the conduct of protests in a free society.
Mr Falana said the prosecution had argued that Mr Sowore may jump bail like the separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu. He however argued that the allegations against Mr Sowore does not support that claim.
Prosecution Opposes Bail
The prosecutor, Hassan Liman, responded to the arguments saying there was a likelihood of the defendants jumping bail.
He added that the reason why the bail should not be granted is to prevent the defendants from committing the same offence of calling for a revolution.
Mr Liman said Mr Sowore had personally chanted songs of revolution after his arraignment and would repeat the same thing if he is released on bail.
Mr Liman referred to the argument by the defence counsel on Mr Buhari’s call for a revolution describing it as baseless and irrelevant in the present circumstances.
“I submit with respect that, that is an effort by the first defendant to support his call for a revolution,” Mr Liman said.