A federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday admitted the 12 detained associates of Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, to a bail.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu, in a ruling, admitted the applicants to bail after their counsel, Pelumi Olajengbesi, moved the motion orally.
Egwuatu held that there was no charge brought before the court by the Department of State Services (DSS) against the applicants to warrant their continuous detention.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicants the DSS did not oppose their bail request include: Abdullateef Ademola Onaolapo, Tajudeen Irinloye, Diekola Jubril Ademola, Ayobami Donald, Uthman Opeyemi Adelabu, Olakunle Oluwapelumi, Raji Kazeem and Taiwo Opeyemi Tajudeen who are 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th applicants respectively.
The service, however, urged the court not to grant bail to Amudat Habibat Babatunde, Abideen Shittu, Jamiu Noah Oyetunji and Bamidele Sunday listed as 2nd, 5th, 6th and 12th applicants respectively in the application.
NAN reports that the applicants, who had been in the detention of the DSS since July 2, had approached the court through their lawyer to seek for their fundamental rights enforcement.
Ruling, the judge noted that though the security agency did not oppose the bail request for eight out of the 12 applicants, he said holding the other four in custody on the grounds of investigation would be contrary to the provision of the law and in breach of their fundamental human rights.
Justice Egwuatu granted the eight applicants whose request were not opposed by the DSS a bail in the sum of N5 million each and admitted the four others to a bail in the sum of N10 million each with two sureties in the like sum.
He ruled that for the four applicants, one of the sureties must be a civil servant on grade level 12 and above, who must be ready to present his or her appointment letter into the service for sighting. The sureties, who must be resident in Abuja and have property, must swear to an affidavit of means.
The judge also ordered that the title deeds of the said property must be verified by the court registrar and the DSS in addition to evidence of three years of tax payment.
The sureties are also to submit all travel documents to the court and a passport photograph each.
Meanwhile, the four applicants were also ordered to report to the DSS office on the first Monday of every month for the next three months, beginning from next Monday.
Egwuatu, in addition, held that the applicants should remain in the custody of the DSS pending the perfection of their bail.
Earlier when the matter was called, Olajengbesi, hinted that in the last adjourned date, the court ordered him to file his amended application and he had since done that.
He said having studied the DSS affidavit to support its detention of his clients, the lawyer prayed the court to admit them on bail.
He said the applicants should not be allowed to continue to be kept in custody of the agency.
Counsel to the DSS, I. Awo, who expressed displeasure over Olajengbesi’s failure to serve him with the amended copy of the application, said he did not know what the amended process was all about.
Awo was, however, served in the open court after the judge’s intervention.The DSS lawyer then made his intention known about the bail application for the applicants.
He said the service would not be opposing to the bail plea of eight out of the 12 applicants, “This is because so far, investigation conducted by the service revealed that the level of the involvement in the offence of arms stuck pilling and other criminal activities are minimal.
“While the other four applicants that we will be strongly opposing their bail are; 2nd, 12th, 6th and 5th defendants,” he said.
According to him, investigation so far has revealed high level of complicity on their part.
“As it is, the respondent (DSS) is still investigating this matter and while we will not oppose bail to those applicants earlier mentioned, we seriously believe that it is not in the interest of justice and it will not serve the purpose of national security for these four applicants to be granted bail.
“The fear of the respondent is that if granted bail, they may not make themselves available for further investigation and possible prosecution,” he said.
He said the law also gave grounds on why a suspect could be detained beyond 24 hours.
He said one of these was the nature of the offence that was being accused of, adding that this was exhibited in Paragraphs 5, 7 and 9 of the affidavit in support dated July 29.
The lawyer informed that the applicants were arrested by the service on July 2, following a raid on the Sunday Igboho’s residence on July 1.
Awo, who said that various sophisticated weapons were recovered from the home, said Igboho and the applicants were advocate of Oduduwa Republic.
Justice Egwuatu then asked him if the service had charged the them to court but he gave a negative response.
Awo argued further that the severity of the offence could also determine the grant of a bail.
He said their leader, Mr Igboho, was currently standing a criminal trial in Benin Republic.
According to him, he was declared wanted by the service but rather than turning himself in, he chose to leave the shores of this country.
“There is no guarantee that these four applicants will not follow suit,” he argued.
According to him, Section 162 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, also set out the conditions or circumstances upon which bail can be refused.
Awo said Paragraph C of the same section provided that where the applicant seeking for bail attempted to intimidate witnesses or interfere with investigation, in such circumstances, bail could be refused.
He said there were credible information on how friends, families and associates of the four applicants were making contacts to the potential witnesses identified by the service.
“They have started making overture to them to compromise investigation and pressurising some not to turn up in the event they (the four applicants) will be charged.
“We believe strongly that these four applicants who are still needed for further investigation will jeopardise the ongoing investigation if released,” Awo told the court.
He submitted that as soon as investigation is concluded on the four applicants, the DSS would not hesitate to charge them to court.
“At that point, we can even concede to accelerated trial because we do not want to take for granted the safety of the lives of our potential witnesses in this case.
“We urge my lord to refuse the grant of bail to those isolated few applicants in order not to frustrate further investigation in this case,” he said.
Responding, Olajengbesi urged the court to discountenance the argument of Awo, saying “this is not known to any law in Nigeria.
“The position of the constitution is that anyone who is arrested for an alleged offence should be brought to court within a reasonable time; and this should be within 24 hours.”
Olajengbesi told the court that contrary to the Section 35(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the DSS had kept the applicants for about 34 days in detention.
He said that it took the order of the court for the respondent (DSS) to allow even the legal representatives of these applicants to have access to them..
He said the experience of the applicants in the facility of the respondent was “a bad taste.”
According to him, that the applicants were arrested for certain offences, after 34 days in the respondent detention, the applicants should have been charged to court.
He argued that the position of the law is that investigation cannot be indefinite.
“The nature of the offence claimed by the respondent (DSS) as deposed to in their affidavit is firstly not before this court by way of any charge and also the respondent does not need 34 days to investigate a person the respondent claimed was found with firearms.
“In view of this my lord, we will pray this honourable court to admit the 12 applicants on bail unconditionally as the respondent had not shown any charge or reasonable intention to prosecute this matter,” he stated.
Olajengbesi also argued that the DSS obtained an order from another court earlier to detain the applicants for 14 days pending the investigation and that the order had since expired on Aug. 2, yet, the security outfit could not come out with any result.
“It shows that the 12 applicants should be allowed to go in peace and enjoy the benefit of our constitution.
“Also, we shall ensure on our part, as legal practitioners, who have duty to this court that a reasonable surety is provided to allow the respondent (DSS) a quality assurance that the applicants will be available for further investigation if the need be,” he said.
He argued that to continue to keep the applicants in the custody of the service would amount to an affront on the constitution and infringement on their fundamental human rights as provided by the law.
Awo, who disagreed with Olajengbesi’s submission, said though the earlier order to detain the applicants for14 days had expired, the service would have gone to renew the order but for the order of the Federal High Court that the detainees be brought before it.
Egwuatu then commended the lawyer and the DSS for complying with the court order.
Awo, however, urged that in the event the court refused to grant his application on the four applicants, “we pray the court to make a specific order for the respondent (DSS) to keep them for another 14 days during which time, we believe the investigation would have been concluded.”
However, Olajengbesi opposed the request.
He argued that such application that would infringe on the liberty of the applicants could not have been made orally.
“There is nothing before the court to show that the respondent has filed any thing to that effect.
“The applicants are in court first for the purpose of their liberty.
“It will, therefore, be a dent on our constitution for the respondent to take the advantage of this honourable court to continue to supress and oppress the applicants.
“We urge my lord that the oral application for further detention should be denied,” he said.
Justice Egwuatu, while ruling, noted that granting bail is at the discretion of the court.
He said that it was clear that no charge had been preferred against the applicants and that they had been with the DSS since July 2.
The judge also noted that the allegation that the families and friends of the applicants were making overtures to influence the investigation was not contained in the DSS affidavit filed before the court.
Egwuatu then ruled in Favour of the applicants.
Shortly after the judge delivered the ruling, Olajengbesi then urged the court to make an order that the applicants be remanded at correctional facility pending the perfection of their bail.
He said the reason was that the applicants were no longer comfortable to be remanded in DSS custody, saying “they are scared of their lives.”
But Awo asked the court to refuse the application.
Egwuatu, who declined to grant Olajengbesi’s plea, said there was no evidence before the court to show that the applicants were not save in the custody of the DSS.