ECOWAS Court and Contemporary Nigeria



The ruling by the Economic Community of West African States on a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki was though a landmark victory for democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, it nonetheless called for sober reflections, writes Carl Umegboro

The Court of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a verdict over the arrest and detention of the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) declared the action of the federal government as unlawful and arbitrary, and consequently ordered his release alongside a sum of fifteen million naira as damages. However, it is important to note the court didn’t extend its ruling to the charges leveled against him but stringently on legality of the arrest and detention in line with the statutory procedures.

In other words, the court neither declared him guilty nor not guilty on the allegations. Suffice to say the government can proceed to secure a warrant for his arrest accordingly alongside his release packages as ordered by the court in reverence to rule of law. The obvious feat is the confiscation of the ammunitions allegedly found in his custody.

Essentially, the judgment though a landmark victory for democracy vis-à-vis the fundamental human rights and rule of law, nonetheless, calls for sober reflections. Taking a gaze on the Nigerian Police Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and judicial precedence, the verdict of the court is justifiable.

However, weighing it comparatively with developments in contemporary Nigeria, particularly insecurity which had claimed uncountable lives, rendered a great number homeless, presently in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) centres and several churches attacked with lethal weapons including bombs, any realistic assessor will perch on the side of the federal government and its security agencies despite the breach of the afore-said statutes and its concomitant consequences.

At this juncture, perhaps, we pause on how the Islamic dreaded sect, Boko Haram terrorised the nation and frustrated Goodluck Jonathan’s administration believably sponsored by some unknown high-profile citizens within his cabinet as he professed? How policemen and soldiers were murdered and barracks bombed; how our youth corpers assigned on service in the north inexplicably lost their lives? How mothers and kids were heartlessly slaughtered and bodies found inside deep pits?

How Christians were incessantly ambushed and mercilessly massacred and bombs indiscriminately thrown into churches during worships which ended into mourning among other atrocities? Incontrovertibly, the ECOWAS court verdict based on the points of law are profound and faultless, unfortunately, strangers that didn’t witness interments may not appropriately exhume the corpse from the head.

After President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration amidst high insecurity, a tip signaled illegal stockpiling of lethal weapons in Ex-NSA’s custody leading to immediate invasion of his abode by operatives of the Department of Security Service (DSS) but without a search warrant as required by law, and consequently his arrest.

By statutes, such actions must be covered by a warrant, incidentally, to suspend such sensitive information until a warrant is granted by a court of competent jurisdiction may be jeopardised as the tendencies of seep-out is high putting into consideration the perception that everyone is a suspect. The application of ‘warrants-before-actions’ is dangerous in undeveloped nations like Nigeria, where analog system still exists.

In developed countries, once a security threat points at a direction, with the aid of technology, security watch will be instituted while warrants and other legal instruments for investigations are processed. This is among the boo-boos we unconsciously copied from developed nations without meeting basic criteria.

How do we justify ignoring a suspect who is substantially linked to illegal possession of firearms in a society that insecurity was at its peak or accused of looting of the nation’s treasury on account that a warrant hasn’t been obtained knowing one could successfully evade even within the shores of Nigeria against prosecution?
Or do we assume the sponsors of the sects are foreigners or commoners on the streets? Similar event had occurred when a Boko Haram key suspect was allegedly safeguarded in a governor’s lodge in the north against his arrest simply on account of the immunity clause of the governor. That’s senseless and parochial.

Certainly, emergency power to ignore some antediluvian laws is indispensable. Today, if not the Fulani herdsmen excesses on account of lopsided-appointments, Buhari has drastically brought Boko Haram under control through proactive actions.

These accounts for the reason emergency powers, particularly on security is desirable to adequately equip the president to tackling the challenges hindered by unrealistic laws. The clause for a mandatory warrant prior to taking some security measures is premature in contradistinction to our development, and will continue to frustrate the operatives from producing results or attract more damages when ignored as in the present scenario.
-Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, is the publisher, Pinnacle InfoGallery