Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has said he declined a request made by a mediatory delegation to prevail upon the then detained publisher of Sahara Reporter, Omoyele Sowore, to apologise to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Sowore, who was charged for treason, cyberstalking and abusing the president, was illegally detained for about four months in 2019 for calling for a ‘revolution’.
The activist said while he was held in detention, an emissary led by the late Ismaila Isa-Funtua visited him to extract a commitment to jettison his call for revolution in exchange for his freedom.
But presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, rebutted this, saying members of the delegation came on their own volition and not on the urging of the president.
He added that “the fence mending process” was fruitful, and “Mr Sowore was happy with a resolution proposed, although the latter said his lawyer (Mr Falana) needed to come on board.”
But the process collapsed after the team met Mr Falana in Lagos, Mr Shehu said.
In reaction to this on Thursday, Mr Falana said while Mr Shehu “did not attend the Lagos meeting,” he gave a “highly erroneous impression that the deal struck with the captive (Mr Sowore) was frustrated by his lawyer.”
He added that “Mr Shehu’s memory failed him,” for refusing to tell Nigerians he rejected “the gratuitous request” to persuade Mr Sowore to “apologise to President Buhari and write an undertaking to desist from further embarrassing the federal government.”
“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,” Mr Falana noted.
“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 published the terms of the “resolution” which he claimed that Mr Sowore had accepted instead of of blaming the collapse of the “fence-mending process” on the intransigence of his lawyer “whoever that was (sic).”
“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 ivilian dispensation,” the rights lawyer wrote.