Updated: February 25, 2021
One of Nigeria’s most popular lawyers, Femi Falana, who is defending in court New York-based activist, politician and publisher, Omoyele Sowore, put President Muhammadu Buhari on trial on Friday, reminding the former military dictator that he too had called for protests in 2003 and 2011 when he lost the presidential elections against Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan but no one arrested him.
Back then, Barrister Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said, Mr. Buhari was neither arrested nor charged with treason as he is doing now as a sitting President.
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He was instead advised by the police to go to court and seek justice, and he lost again at tribunals.
Falana told the court that President Buhari had in 2003 after he lost election under the defunct ANPP decided to stage protest all over the country and was never arrested or prosecuted but disbanded by the police.
Falana reminded the current leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, including president Buhari that in 2011, they called for the kind of revolution that took place in Egypt, which he said was violent, but were neither arrested nor charged with treason.
His client, Sowore, who has been exposing corruption in Nigeria via his online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, headquartered in New York, was arrested in Nigeria on August 3 and charged with treason.
He had called for a social revolution after flawed elections brought back Mr. Buhari to power.
Sowore, who was a presidential candidate during that election, lost, organized a protest and was arrested and charged with treason and money laundering.
In court on Friday, Falana argued that Sowore had specifically warned his followers not to engage in any form of violence but to protest peacefully, but he was still arrested and treated like a criminal.
Falana said the only time some youths were arrested for using the term “Revolution” was in 1948 under the colonial era, adding that they were not charged with treason but with sedition.
The Federal Government did not obey a judge’s decision to grant Sowore bail, and Mr. Falana argued that the Buhari government had failed to give any cogent reason why he should not be released on bail pending his trial.
Local newspaper, Vanguard, quoted Falana as arguing that since Sowore is presumed innocent by virtue of section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, the onus was on FG to establish why he should remain in detention.
Falana argued that despite the allegation that Sowore planned to overthrow the government of Nigeria by staging a protest tagged RevolutionNow, FG failed to adduce any evidence to substantiate the charge
“We submit that the use of the word Revolution is not a criminal offence in Nigeria and it has never been criminalized. Hence, President Buhari called for a revolution and was never arrested or prosecuted”.
“On count-two of the charge that bordered on the allegation that Sowore insulted President Buhari, Falana argued that under the law, no public office is allowed to use the machinery of the state to settle scores with his opponent,” Vanguard reported.