Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has attributed memory loss as the cause of the “jejune” narrative of President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, about what truly happened at a meeting, which held between the Presidency and Omoyele Sowore during the activist’s detention at the Department of State Services facility.
Late Isa Funtua, a self-acclaimed member of President Buhari’s cabal, had led a delegation which included Garba Shehu, ThisDay Publisher, Nduka Obiagbena and his Vanguard Newspaper’s colleague, Sam Amuka, to meet Sowore uninformed and “broker” peace between him and the government.
Sowore recently recounted the role late Funtua in the meeting, which ended in deadlock.
Sowore said Funtua was arrogant in his submission when he said “you can’t defeat the government”.
Sowore said he retorted back at Funtua that “Well, you are about (to) find out that the people can defeat any government no matter how powerful you guys think you’re”.
Irked by Sowore’s interview, Shehu with a rather infantile statement said, “The meeting ended well. Contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board. The fence-mending process collapsed after the meeting of the trio with the lawyer in Lagos.”
However, in a statement on Thursday, Sowore’s lawyer, Falana, said Shehu made deliberate attempts to distort history.
Falana, who said he was part of many other patriots that clamoured for Shehu’s release in 2006, noted that the charge of treasonable felony against Sowore was bound to be quashed for no justifiable reason.
Falana said, “Mr Garba Shehu has continued to give the highly erroneous impression that the deal struck with the captive was frustrated by his lawyer. Since Mr Shehu’s memory failed him in his jejune narrative, he said that the meeting ended well and contrary to the posturing by Sowore, he said he was happy with a resolution proposed but that his lawyer, whoever that was, needed to come on board.
“Mr Shehu ought to have published the terms of the “resolution” which he claimed that Sowore had accepted instead of of blaming the collapse of the “fence-mending process” on the intransigence of his lawyer “whoever that was (sic)”.
“I confirm that I held a meeting with the trio referred to by Mr Shehu even though he did not mention my name. Hence, I am compelled to react to a couple of issues raised in his incendiary account. More so that he did not attend the Lagos meeting. For reasons best known to Mr Shehu, he refused to inform the Nigerian people that I rejected the gratuitous request to prevail on Mr Sowore to apologise to President Muhammadu Buhari and write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the federal government. Apart from insisting that my client had committed no offence by exercising his freedom of expression over the perilous state of the nation.
“I expressed my personal agony over the request because I won the legal battle wherein the Court of Appeal had upheld the fundamental right of the Nigerian people to protest against the government without police permit. Mr Shehu ought to have equally disclosed that I demanded for the unconditional release of my client from the unlawful incarceration of the State Security Service. In fact, when the late Alhaji Isa Funtua said rather condescendingly at the Lagos meeting that the regime in power could not be defeated I was quick to remind him that the Nigerian people had defeated military dictators to pave way for the current civilian dispensation.
“In particular, I recalled the case of Isa Funtua vs The President wherein the plaintiff had challenged the obnoxious newspaper registration decree enacted by the Ibrahim Babangida junta in 1993. For goodness sake, is Mr Shehu not aware of the fact that Mr Sowore was charged with treasonable felony, money laundering and insulting President Buhari for daring to call off the bluff of the federal government?
“It is interesting to note I had teamed up with other patriots in 2006 to campaign for the restoration of the liberty of Mr Garba Shehu (who was then the spokesman for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) when he was detained by the State Security Service and charged before the Federal High Court with the offence of “obtaining, reproducing and keeping classified material” in contravention of the Official Secrets Act.
“Happily, the charge filed against Mr Shehu by the forces of incipient fascism in the country was withdrawn and struck out in his favour. In like manner, the charge of treasonable felony which is hanging menacingly on the head of Mr Omoyele Sowore like a sword of Damocles will also be struck out in his favour in the fullness of time.”
Sowore was arrested in the early hours of August 3, 2019 by operatives of the Department of State Services for calling on Nigerians to take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations on August 5 to demand a better country from the administration of President Buhari.
He was kept in unlawful detention until December 24 when he was released on bail under stringent conditions.
He remains confined to Abuja and forbidden from speaking with journalists as part of his bail conditions.