There was a mild drama at Court 7, Federal High Court, Abuja, as application by the Department of State Services (DSS) counsel, Hassan Liman, to take witnesses in the ongoing trial of Omoyele Sowore, Convener, #RevolutionNow Protest, in camera failed.
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Sowore, alongside Olawale Bakare, is charged by the DSS with treasonable felony, money laundering, among others.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had, on Oct. 21, adjourned commencement of trial till Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, after varying the bail conditions granted Sowore, and his co-defendant, Bakare.
Justice Ojukwu had granted the order in a ruling on the application for bail variation by the duo.
However, on Wednesday before the commencement of the trial, screen shield was already set up in the court for witnesses to be taken.
But it was dismantled shortly before Justice Ojukwu took her seat.
As soon as court proceeding started, DSS Counsel, Liman, SAN, told the court that the agency was ready to commence the trial based on the order of the court in the last sitting.
However, Counsel to the 1st defendant, Femi Falana, SAN, prayed the court for an adjournment of the matter to enable them perfect the defendants’ bail conditions.
Falana, who told the court that the security outfit had made it difficult for them to have access to the defendants to prepare for the trial, said even in court, they were only given less than five minutes to converse with them.
Quoting the law, he said defendants are expected to be given adequate time and facilities for their defence.
Falana hinted that all the bail conditions have been met but they needed time to perfect them.
He also accused the DSS of planning a secret trail for his client.
However, Counsel to the DSS, Liman, SAN, objected to the application for adjournment, saying the defendants counsel had had ample time to perfect the bail conditions and prepare for the trial.
Liman, who disagreed that the DSS had not given them opportunity to meet the defendants, said they were given unrestricted access to them.
Unhappy with Liman’s response, Falana told Justice Ojukwu that the prosecution counsel had told him before the commencement of the trial that their witnesses would be taken in camera.
He said Liman’s statement was evident with the setting up of screen shield by the witness box close to the judge’s door.
According to Falana, I was told that the witnesses will come in through My Lord’s door to the screen shield where they will testify.
“They have made arrangement with the deputy chief registrar to take the witnesses on camera without our knowledge.
“This is an ambush. But all of a sudden, the court Clark dismantled the shield,” he said.
The lawyer said when Liman discovered that the plan did not, he approached him for a cooperation.
He said the act was meant to embarrass the court and the defendants.
When Justice Ojukwu asked Liman on what transpired, the DSS told the court that an application was made to take the witnesses in camera.
He said though it was not a judicial arrangement, an administrative arrangement was made in that regard through the Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) of the court, Mr Femi Ekperobe.
Justice Ojukwu, therefore, summoned the DCR to explained why such arrangement was made without the court’s knowledge.
Ekperobe, who confirmed the development, told the court that such arrangement is meant for high profile cases.