•Awards N15m damages against FG •CCT orders forfeiture of Orubebe’s land to govt
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Court in Abuja has ordered the immediate release of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki (rtd), from detention where he has been kept without trial since December 2015 by the federal government.
The regional court held that his detention violated both national and international laws on the right of persons and citizens to freedom of liberty.
In the judgment by the court and delivered by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, the ECOWAS Court imposed a fine of N15 million against the Nigeria government as compensatory damages to the former NSA for the deprivation of his freedom to liberty and right to property.
In the judgment that lasted over one hour, the regional court dismissed the allegations of unlawful possession of firearms and economic crimes used by the federal government to justify the detention of Dasuki, adding that the Nigerian government went off track, because the applicant applied before the court for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
Justice Nwoke said that even if the applicant had committed a crime, the law still required that due process of the law should be observed in his trial, adding that it was an established fact that the applicant was put on trial in three different Nigerian High Courts and was granted bails by the courts.
The court said that the action of the Nigerian government, in subjecting the ex-NSA to indefinite detention without trial, was condemnable because criminality had not been established against him.
The ECOWAS court came down heavily on the federal government on its claim that it detained Dasuki without trial because he (Dasuki) was “planning to stage a coup and wage war against millions of Nigerians”, adding that the defendant (Nigeria) was so confused and not consistent in its defence in the suit against it.
Justice Chijioke further held that the Nigerian government took the law into its hands and made a mockery of the rule of law by arresting the applicant without a warrant of arrest or warrant of detention when he had legally been granted bail by the appropriate courts.
According to the court, detention order must be made in writing and must be delivered to the detainee. In the instant case, none of such was obtained and delivered to Dasuki by the federal government before arresting and executing and forcefully taken away his property at his homes in Abuja and Sokoto.
The court also dismissed the claim of the federal government that Dasuki was arrested and detained in his own interest, adding that the claim was an assault to the Nigerian Constitution and other international laws, because there was no iota of evidence placed before the court that the applicant applied for security protection.
Besides, the ECOWAS Court said that the claim of the Nigerian government that Dasuki was detained in his own interest contradicted the claim made by the same government that the applicant was arrested and detained because he constituted a security threat to Nigeria and having also committed some economic crimes.
The court held that the claim that Dasuki was detained in his own interest was unreasonable and that Nigeria, being under a democratic government where the rule of law was expected to be protected, ought to act within the ambit of the law, since every nation was subject to the rule of law.
“Having perused the case before us, we have come to the conclusion that the re-arrest and detention of the applicant, after he had been granted bail by three courts since December last year, made mockery of the rule of law. The executive arm should not interfere with the judiciary.
“Even if the applicant has committed crimes of whatever nature, the principle of innocence must be respected and the fact that he has been charged to court does not disentitle him to freedom of liberty. Courts must rise to their responsibilities and prevent executive lawlessness.
“It is the applicant today, it could be anybody tomorrow. There is no legal basis for the re-arrest of the applicant other than to circumvent the bails granted by courts.
“We have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the purported search warrant claimed to have been obtained by the Nigerian government was an afterthought aimed at perverting the course of justice, because the so-called search warrant was not certified and to worsen the case, the defendant claimed that it could not serve the same search warrant on the applicant.
“For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who commits crimes must be put on trial before an appropriate court, but in doing so, the state must respect local and international laws in the prosecution of such persons,” the judge said.
The court therefore declared that the arrest, detention and the continued detention of Dasuki since December 2015 without a warrant of arrest as unlawful, arbitrary and done in contravention of both local and international laws, especially Article 5 and 6 of the African Charter on People’s and Persons’ Rights to Freedom of Liberty.
The court also ordered that the invasion of Dasuki’s residences in Abuja and Sokoto and forceful removal of his personal property violated all the relevant laws, especially the Constitution of Nigeria under Section 37 and 44 and ordered that the property seized must be immediately returned to him.
The court further ordered payment of N15 million as compensation to him for his unlawful arrest, detention and forceful seizure of his property without a lawful court order.
Dasuki had in March this year dragged the federal government before the court challenging his continued detention without trial since December 2015.
Dasuki who was rearrested by the operatives of the Department of State Security Service (DSS), shortly after perfecting the third bail conditions granted him by Nigerian Courts, asked the ECOWAS Court to enforce his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the African Charter on the People and Human Rights.
In the suit filed on his behalf by Mr. Robert Emukpoeruo, the former NSA had among others, asked the ECOWAS Court to declare as unlawful and unconstitutional and a breach of his fundamental human rights his arrest since last year without a lawful court order.
Reacting to the judgment, Mr. Wale Balogun who stood in for Dasuki, expressed optimism that the federal government, being a major stakeholder and signatory to the protocol of the ECOWAS Court, and being a democratic government would obey and implement the orders issued by the court.
CCT Orders Forfeiture of Orubebe’s Land
In another ruling yesterday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) also ordered the federal government to confiscate a landed property, which the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) said belonged a former Minister of the Niger Delta, Mr. Godsday Orubebe and was allegedly not declared by him in violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers
The government had dragged Orubebe before the tribunal on a one-count charge of non-declaration of a landed property situate at Plot 2057 Asokoro District, Abuja, when he was leaving office in 2011.
During the trial, Orubebe through his counsel, Selekeowei Larry (SAN) had told the tribunal that the land no longer belonged to him, as he had transferred the interest to one Mr. Akinwumi Ajibola, in lieu of his (Orubebe) two years’ house rent in Mabushi where he lived as a minister.
Orubebe further told the tribunal that all the documents, as relating to the land had been transferred to Ajibola, including the Power of Attorney and Deed of Assignment since June 2013.
But the federal government had insisted that the said land still belonged to Orubebe, as same was yet to be registered at the Land Registry.
The prosecution argued that the allocation paper was still in Orubebe’s name.
Delivering judgment yesterday, the chairman of the tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar held that having analysed the submission of both parties, it was observed that six years after the transfer had been made, the documents of the land were yet to be registered at the Land Registry.
He further held that the prosecution had established its case beyond reasonable doubt.
He further held that the defendant was under obligation to register the land at the Land Registry in Abuja.
According to him, “Failure to register the document at the Land Registry renders the transfer null. In the circumstance, the defendant is still the owner of the said Plot 2057 Asokoro District, and not Mr. Akinwumi Ajibola who testified as the Defense Witness 1.
“Based on the provision of Section 23 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Plot 2057 Asokoro District belonging to the defendant is hereby confiscated and forfeited to the federal government,” he ruled.
Reacting to the judgment, Orubebe’s counsel described it as a travesty of justice and promised to test the validity of the judgment at the Court of Appeal.
“It showed in the judgment that the tribunal had made up its mind to convict the defendant by all means. How can somebody sell a property and you will now punish him for what the buyer of the property left undone.
“And mind you, the buyer of the said property was not a party in the suit. We shall appeal the judgment,” he said.