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Money laundering, insulting Buhari, treason… FG finally charges Sowore—but not under anti-terrorism law

AS the court order permitting his detention for 45 days expires, Omoyele Sowore, founder of Sahara Reporters and 2019 presidential candidate, has finally been charged by the Federal Government under various laws.

But from available reports, none of the charges is based on provisions of Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act, under which his detention order, valid till Saturday, was secured.

Rather, the Federal Government, in charges by Aminu Alilu, a Chief State Counsel at the Department of Public Prosecutions, levelled seven allegations against Sowore, including treasonable felony, insulting the president, and money laundering.

He was charged alongside Olawale Bakare, also known as Mandate.

According to Punch newspaper, “In the charges instituted against the defendants, the prosecution accused Sowore and his co-defendant of committing conspiracy to commit treasonable felony in breach of section 516 of the Criminal Code Act by allegedly staging ‘a revolution campaign on September 5, 2019 aimed at removing the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’.

“The prosecution also accused them of committing the actual offence of treasonable felony in breach of section, 4(1)(c) of the Criminal Code Act, by using the platform of Coalition for Revolution, in August 2019 in Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, to stage the #RevolutionNow protest allegedly aimed at removing the President.

“It also accused Sowore of cybercrime offences in violation of section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, by ‘knowingly’ sending ‘messages by means of press interview granted on Arise Television network which you knew to be false for the purpose of causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’.”

Finally, the paper reported that Sowore was also accused of acting in violation of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act of 2011.

The section provides for the crime of stealing money or properties got from “illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances” or from “participation in an organised criminal group and racketeering, terrorism, terrorist financing, trafficking in human beings and migrants smuggling, tax evasion, sexual exploitation, illicit arms trafficking in stolen and other goods, bribery and corruption” and so on.

Sowore was arrested at about 11 pm on August 2 by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) for calling for a revolution and “threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country”.

Relying on a provision of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act 2013, the Federal High Court in Abuja had, five days later, granted the DSS permission to keep him in detention without trial for 45 days. Sowore’s application to upturn this, in August, was not ruled upon by the court.

On Friday, September 16, Femi Falana filed another application for bail on his behalf.

The anti-terrorism law under which Sowore has been detained since August allows the court to grant such applications only where a person is suspected to have violated the Act.

Sowore’s continued detention has been condemned by various organisations, including Amnesty International and the Nigeria Labour Congress.

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