A leading rights advocate and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Femi Falana, on Thursday opened up on the secret meeting he had with the late Isa Funtua during the detention of media personality, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Service (DSS).
Sowore and a presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, had been in public arena splashing mud over Funtua’s role in the aborted negotiation of Sowore’s freedom. While Sowore painted the picture of a villain for the late president’s friend, Garba insisted he was a patriot who should be allowed to rest in peace.
Falana, Sowore’s lawyer, however, took an unflattering image of Funtua away from the meeting he had with him in ago, essentially tagging Shehu a purveyor of lies.
He said: “In a deliberate attempt to distort the proceedings of the secret meetings held by representatives of media publishers and officials of the presidency with Mr Omoyele Sowore in the dungeon of the State Security Service last year Mr Garba Shehu has continued to give the highly erroneous impression that the deal struck with the captive was frustrated by his lawyer.
“Mr Shehu ought to have published the terms of the ‘resolution’ which he claimed that Mr Sowore had accepted instead of blaming the collapse of the ‘fence-mending process’ on the intransigence of his lawyer “whoever that was. “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 a police permit.
“Mr Shehu ought to have equally disclosed that I demanded 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.
“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 the bluff of the Federal Government?
“It is interesting to note that 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 hanging menacingly on the head of Mr Omoyele wore like a sword of Damocles will also be struck out in his favour in the fullness of time.”