ECOWAS Court Adjourns Ruling Indefinitely over Dasuki’s Detention

  • Former air force chief, Amosu granted N500m bail
  • ECOWAS secretariat may be broke

Davidson Iriekpen

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice has adjourned indefinitely judgment in the case of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), against the federal government in which he challenged his unlawful detention by government since December 2015 in the custody of the Department of the State Service (DSS).
The court, presided over by Justice Friday Nwoke, had on May 16 reserved judgment till today after taking final argument from Dasuki’s lawyer Mr. Robert Emukperuo and federal government’s lawyer, Mr. Tijani Gazali.

However, journalists, lawyers and other observers who stormed the regional court in Abuja yesterday were taken aback when they were told that the much awaited verdict of the court was not ready and that a new date for the judgment would be communicated to the lawyers. At the court entrance, journalists, lawyers and observers were turned back by about 12 security men who told them that the court management had mandated them to tell everybody that judgment was not ready, prompting the people to leave one after the other when the reality dawned on them that the court would not sit after all.

Dasuki had dragged the federal government before the ECOWAS Court praying the regional court to intervene in his detention without trial since December last year.
The ex-NSA asked the court to void the detention, the seizure of his properties and to bar government from further detaining him without a lawful court order.

In the court action instituted by his counsel, Mr. Robert Emukpoeruo, Dasuki asked the court to award in his favoor a sum of N500 million as compensatory damages for his alleged unlawful invasion of his house, detention, seizure of properties and infringement on his rights.

He claimed that government had put him on trial in three different high courts on corruption charges where he was granted bail and that after his bail, he was re-arrested on December 29, 2015 and has since been held incommunicado without lawful court order.

Dasuki told the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice that the federal government has no legal or moral justification for his continued incarceration since December last year.

But the federal government through its counsel, Mr. Tijani Gazali, had argued a preliminary objection against Dasuki on the ground that he ought to have filed a contempt charge against the government for alleged disobedience to court order on the bail granted him but the ECOWAS Court ruled that the case of the plaintiff was on his fundamental rights and has nothing to do with the domestic court.

In another development, a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday granted a N500million bail to the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu and 10 others arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged N22.8billion fraud.

Amosu was arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, Air Commodore Gbadebo Olugbenga and eight companies before Justice Mohammed Idris.
The companies are Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited and Trapezites BDC Fonds and Pricey Limited.

Others are Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited and Solomon Health Care Limited.
They were charged with 26 counts of stealing, concealing the proceeds of crime and conversion of funds belonging to the Nigerian Air Force.

After the charges were read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
Counsel to the 1st and 11th defendants, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), informed the court of his motion for bail and sought the leave of the court to move same and was granted.

Arguing for bail, Ayorinde said his client had been cooperating fully with the EFCC since his arrest in January 2016.

Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, did not oppose the bail applications but urged the court to give stringent conditions that would secure the defendants attendance to court. In his ruling, Justice Buba granted them bail to the sum of N500 million.

He reminded the 1st and 3rd defendants to prison while the 2nd defendant is remanded in EFCC custody pending the fulfillment of the bail conditions.

The judge ruled: “Each defendant is granted bail to the sum of N500m with two sureties with landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court. The sureties shall deposit their title documents to the registrar of the court while the EFCC must verify them.”

He added that the sureties must swear to affidavit of means to be verified by the EFCC while the defendants deposit their international passports to the court as well and adjourned trial to July 8.

Meanwhile, indications have merged that the ECOWAS Court and its parent body, the ECOWAS Secretariat, may be financially broke. Recently the Vice President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Micah Wright, had disclosed that one of the impediments that the court was facing was insufficient fund for its operation due to non-payment of levy by member states.

“The court and by extension the entire community is facing financial difficulties where member states are not paying up the community levy and that is the means of finance for all ECOWAS activities,” he said.

“The court is always at disadvantage when the funds are being distributed. But we have to take more initiatives to impress it upon the commission the mandate of the court is of such that the court is alone.

“The court cannot source external funding like the commission or like other institutions. We don’t want to compromise our independence and neutrality by going out to seek donor funding.”
At another occasion, the President of ECOWAS, Mr. Marcel De Souza, had expressed frustration over the paucity of funds being experienced by the commission.

De Souza, spoke when he led a delegation from the commission to a courtesy visit on the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim.

He appealed to Nigeria and other member states to rescue the commission by paying up their outstanding levies.