Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Muhammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), monday at the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) Court won the first leg of his case challenging his alleged unlawful arrest and detention without trial since December last year by the federal government.
The court in Abuja ruled that it had jurisdiction to entertain the suit brought before it by Dasuki for the enforcement of his fundamental rights to liberty and to own properties as enshrined in the provisions of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution and African Charter on fundamental rights of persons.
In the ruling delivered by Justice Friday Chijoke Nwoke, the ECOWAS court dismissed completely the objection of the government against Dusuki’s suit on the grounds that it was misplaced, misconceived, frivolous and lacked merit.
Justice Nwoke in the unanimous ruling of the three-member panel of the court held that the claim of government that Dasuki’s case emanated from his trial on certain offences was inappropriate and being basis for its objection to the applicants case in this matter could not hold water since the reliefs sought by Dasuki have nothing to do with the ongoing trial at the domestic courts of Nigeria.
The justices said in their own opinion, that the claim of government that Dasuki ought to have filed contempt charge against the Nigerian government for disobeying court orders that admitted him to bail but flouted by the government was not susitainable because his the case of applicant was not ambiguous, in that it was not based on any criminal trial in any court.
Justice Nwoke said at any rate, the case of the Nigerian government could not stand in the face of the law because there was no evidence that Dasuki had filed similar pending matter in any international court and that even if he had similar matter in any Nigerian court up to Supreme Court, such domestic courts could not have the status of international court as envisaged in the treaty in which Nigeria was a signatory.
“In our opinion, what Dasuki brought before us as a case is an issue for the enforcement of his fundamental rights to liberty and own property and against unlawful arrest, unlawful detention and unlawful seizure of properties without any court order or warrant of arrest.
“From the totality of the issues brought before this court, it is clear and there is no ambiguity that the applicant is seeking enforcement of his right to freedom and not on the issue of his trial for any alleged offence before any Nigerian court.”
Justice Nwoke further said: “Therefore, the objection of the government and the request that the case of the applicant in this matter be struck out on the ground of emanating from some criminal matter has no basis, the claims and the request lack merit and are hereby dismissed and we declare that the application of Dasuki is admissible to this court.”
The ECOWAS court said it was not out to decide the issue of whether the applicant was guilty of the charges against him in the Nigerian courts or not but simply to ascertain whether his fundamental rights to liberty, having been granted bail in criminal matters rearrested since last year and kept in an unknown place constitute an abuse of his rights to freedom.
Dasuki through his lawyer, Mr. Robert Emukpoeruo and Wale Balogun had dragged the federal government before the ECOWAS court to complain that the invasion of his house in Abuja, Kaduna and Sokoto last year without any court order or warrant of arrest and even seizure of his properties comprising vehicles, money and documents constituted the abuse of his rights to liberty as enshrined in section 36 and 34 of the 1999 Constitution and other international laws where Nigeria was a signatory.
Besides, he complained that the invasion of his house by operatives of government without lawful court order traumatised his 94-year-old father (Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki) who suffered shock and up till now had not recovered from the sickness that followed.
Dasuki therefore asked the ECOWAS court to award N500million compensatory damages in his favour and against the government having been denied access to medical attention in abroad as ordered by a Nigerian court since November last year.
The government through its lawyer, Mr. Tijani Gazali, had objected to Dasuki’s case on the grounds that ECOWAS court has no jurisdiction to dabble into the trial of any Nigerian in the Nigerian court and asked the ECOWAS court to strike out the case because it constituted an abuse to the Nigerian courts.
Meanwhile, definite hearing in the matter has been fixed for May 17 and 18, 2016.