The Federal Government of Nigeria is yet to carry out the directive of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS)’s court, which ordered the release of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The West African court, presiding over case filed by Dasuki against FG, described the former NSA detention and residence search without warrant as illegal and unlawful.
Nevertheless, speaking defensively on Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, while explaining reasons for the reluctance, said the government needs to study the content of the ruling before acting on it.
Mr. Dasuki has been detained since last year for allegedly mismanaging billions of dollars meant for purchase of arms as well as for illegal possession of arms.
Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Mr. Malami, Salihu Isah, gave PREMIUM TIMES the government’s stance in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning.
He said the government needs to fully understand the content of the court’s proceedings and judgment before reacting.
“We cannot just react. We will first of all study the judgment to understand it’s content before taking a stand,” he said.
Although the ECOWAS court said it would not go into the details of whether or not Mr. Dasuki’s alleged possession of arms were criminal, it added that an owner is entitled to enjoyment of its property.
The court said the manner of arrest and detention of Mr. Dasuki went contrary to article six of the African Charter on Human Rights and Article 9 (1) of the international order on civil and political rights.
“Liberty is the rule and detention is the exception,” said Mr. Nwoke, who added that the deprivation of Mr. Dasuki’s liberty should only be considered if he is convicted by a court of law.
The Court ordered the Federal Government to pay N15 million as damages to Mr. Dasuki.
With the stance of the chief law officer of the Nigerian government, Mr. Dasuki may still spend more time in jail.
The federal government had at three different times failed to obey court orders granting Mr. Dasuki bail in the past.
The former NSA; a former Minister for State of Finance, Bashir Yuguda; former Sokoto Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; and three others were granted bail on December 21 by the Federal Capital Territory High Court in the sum of N250 million each and two sureties in like sum.
They were taken to the court on a 22-count charge for alleged diversion of funds, misappropriation and breach of trust to the tune of N19.4 billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Despite fulfilling the conditions for his bail set by Justice Peter Affen, the State Security Service, SSS, refused to release Mr. Dasuki.
Before that bail, the former NSA was granted bail on two other occasions.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court had on November 3 granted bail to Mr. Dasuki, who was charged for unlawful possession of firearms.
The SSS however scuttled the bail the following day as its operatives continued to lay siege on Mr. Dasuki’s residence in the Asokoro District of Abuja where he was kept under house arrest.
The service had claimed at the time that the former NSA was under investigation for another offence.
Mr. Dasuki was subsequently arraigned before an Abuja High Court for alleged breach of trust. Although the court granted him bail, the security outfit ignored it.
Reacting to FG reluctance, Legal practitioners explained the effects of obedience or disobedience of the orders by government on Nigeria’s image.
According to Barrister Samson Ameh (SAN) the ECOWAS Court judgement is more like a policy, which is not enforceable.
“ECOWAS court can entertain cases, but it has no infrastructures to enforce its judgements. It is the country from where the case came from, that it would rely upon to enforce the said judgement,” the lawyer said.
“Any country has the right to enforce or fail to enforce the judgement. There are no side effects legally, except that the image of the country may be lowered. It is like a moral, rather than a legal responsibility,” he added
Another Senior Advocate, Akinolu Kehinde, added that the ECOWAS court had no powers to compel enforcement of its judgements.
“ECOWAS court does not have exit powers; it does not have the lead to compel enforcement of its judgements,” he said.
He however added that Nigeria has a lot to lose if it fails to obey the said judgement.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the protocol setting up that court and a key member of ECOWAS, so it will not be nice if this country fails to obey its judgements,” he said.