By Yemi Adebowale; firstname.lastname@example.org; 07013940521
A dispatch from a Federal High Court in Abuja, delivered to the Department of State Services (DSS) last Monday finally perforated all the lies by the DSS on why it has refused to allow the convener of RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore and his associate, Olawale Bakare, enjoy the bail granted them by the court. Following the verification of the sureties of Sowore and Bakare by the court, Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu made an order on November 6, 2019 for the release of the defendants from DSS’s custody. But the leadership of our secret service snubbed the instruction.
However, the letter delivered last Monday directed the security agency to comply with this lawful order of the Federal High Court; that it is not the business of the DSS to impose additional conditions for the release of the two men. The dispatch clearly warned Yusuf Bichi, the Director-General of the DSS and his men of the consequences of the continued detention of Sowore and Bakare. The court’s warning is contained in Form 48 issued by the Registrar and served on the DSS.
The dispatch to the DSS titled, “Notice of consequences of disobedience to order of court,” reads: “Take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the order of the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja made on the 6th November, 2019, which ordered you to release the defendants/Applicants in suit no: FHC/ABJ/CR/235/2019 forthwith, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison. A copy of the said order of court earlier served on you is hereby annexed for your on-the spot reference. You are hereby directed to comply with the court order forthwith or you will be guilty of contempt of court.”
I have persistently argued that the judge who admitted Sowore and Bakare to bail and ordered their release, did not assign the responsibility of confirming their sureties to Bichi and his DSS. The laws of our land are very clear about this. It is preposterous that the DSS is insisting onseeing and verifying the sureties of Sowore and Bakare. This is legally not their business. The two men had perfected the bail conditions given then by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu since November 6, but 24 days after, the DSS had refused to let them out. The Monday dispatch clearly told Bichi and his men that it is not their business to verify and clear sureties. An agency that says it is law-abiding has continued to treat Justice Ojukwu’s order with contempt.
The DSS has really messed up on this Sowore case. The embarrassing statements pushed out are unending and have made this country a global laughing stock. Initially, there was a declaration that the agency had not complied with the court order to release the activist from its dungeon because no one had come to take him. But we all knew that Sowore’s lawyers and associates had been going to the SSS office since his bail conditions were perfected. Bichi and his men chuckled when the federal judge signed papers for Sowore’s release from custody. Suddenly, the DSS came up with an illegal clause that Sowore’s sureties must appear before them and be verified. What a country!
One other phony statement issued by the DSS that has left me so depressed was the one in which the agency said it was still holding on to Sowore, Bakare, the leader of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, and his wife and the immediate-past National Security Adviser,Sambo Dasuki, because they opted to remain in DSS’s custody.
Suddenly, the DSS has forgotten that Dasuki was arrested by its operatives in December 18, 2015, at the gate of Kuje Prison. This was after the ex-NSA was released by the prison authorities after duly complying with the terms of his bail. On stepping out of the prison, he was seized by the men of DSS and he has been kept by them since. Now, the DSS is telling us that Dasuki opted to remain in their custody. The DSS has been keeping Dasuki since December 2015 in violation of series of court orders for his release. This secret service is clearly terrorising Dasuki.
Recall that the Federal High Court, Abuja, after granting him bail on self-recognition, also granted him leave to travel abroad for a three-week medical consultation, on account of failing health. DSS operatives arrested him in his house in barefaced defiance of the order of court and deliberately disallowed him from achieving the terms of the order. The DSS has also forgotten the widely reported statement of the federal government issued in late December 2015 that Dasuki was not allowed home on bail because of the severity of the alleged offences. The truth that must be told is that the DSS has been illicitly holding Dasuki in defiance of court orders.
For El-Zakzaky, he was incarcerated along with his wife, Zeenatudeen, since 2015. The DSS refused to allow the IMN leader out on bail as instructed by several courts. Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on December 2, 2016, granted bail to the fiery Islamic leader, along with his wife, and imposed a fine of N50 million on the federal government for the incarceration of the duo.
Dasuki, El-Zakzaky, Sowore and Bakare have been granted bails and have perfected the bails. A decent government must not be seen promoting impunity and disobeying court orders. Functionaries of government must not be seen assaulting the rule of law. Unfortunately, this is what has been happening to these men. The Nigerian constitution and the rule of law must be respected.
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, captures the frustration of Nigerians with the DSS fittingly when he said such disobedience to court orders eroded the confidence of the people in government and the judiciary.
Ojukwu added: “Many cases have been reported to the commission about investigating police officers and state security officers deliberately refusing or delaying to verify bail conditions following court orders just to punish suspects unduly for reasons that are not constitutional. The constitution guarantees the innocence of every citizen of Nigeria until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“A situation where the orders of courts are continuously disobeyed by security agents makes such security agents judges onto themselves and such situation does not augur well for our democracy based on separation of powers and rule of law. It makes the law uncertain at any point in time and leads to the loss of confidence of the people in government and state institutions, of which the judiciary is one. A situation like this can also lead to self-help, thereby creating more problems for law enforcement agents and threatening the precarious situation of state responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill human rights in the country.”
I sincerely hope that the Bichi-led DSS will respect itself and free Sowore, Bakare, Dasuki and El-Zakzaky. We are in a democracy which thrives on the rule of law.
Weep Not for Abdulaziz Yari
It is heartwarming that the Zamfara House of Assembly repealed the law approving jumbo pensions for former state governors, deputy governors, speakers and deputy speakers. The icing on the cake was the swift signature appended on the revoked law by Governor Bello Matawalle on Wednesday. The horrible bill was passed and signed into law under the administration of immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who recently expressed his frustration with the current state governor for stopping the payment of his N10 million monthly pension. If it had not been repealed, Zamfara State Government would require about N700 million annually to sustain these political liabilities.
Just imagine Yari alone collecting N10 million monthly as“upkeep allowance” in a poverty-stricken state like Zamfara. This is in addition to a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office. Yari’s protest letter to his successor asking to pay his outstanding allowances and pension triggered the decision to repeal the law. Kudos to Zamfara lawmakers for this lofty step. I urge lawmakers in other states to repeal similar laws in their domains.
Yari does not deserve even the salaries he collected for eight years as governor. His demand for upkeep allowances/pension is preposterous. In sane climes, this man, who evidently did not manage Zamfara funds in a transparent manner, would be in jail by now. Yari’s reign brought so much pain to the people of this state. He was an absentee governor who pummeled his banditry-ravaged people with additional hunger, poverty, pain, disease and malnutrition.
This former Zamfara governor spent virtually his entire tenure globetrotting. His frequent trips abroad impacted negatively on the day-to-day running of the government, apart from imposing financial burden on the state. At a point, elder statesman, Saidu Dansadau, petitioned President Buhari, asking him to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State.
Dansadua, a Second Republic Senator, noted: “The governor hardly stays in the state as he prefers to travel all over the world at the expense of the state resources and safety of the people. All matters of state that require action are kept waiting until he returns to the state. Consequently, intelligence and security reports are kept in abeyance. For instance, at a period, out of 60 straight days, the governor spent only two days in Zamfara State.”
While Yari was living big, Zamfara was bleeding.
Frustrated legislators tried to impeach Yari. They were angered by his alleged ineptitude, misappropriating allocations to the state, corrupt usage of local government funds, failing to implement the budgets and non-remittance of pension funds to pension administrators. Instead of addressing the issues, Yari resorted to political intimidation, arrest and detention of principal officers of the House and other support staff.
He viciously killed moves by Zamfara lawmakers to remove him by using operatives of the DSS to harass their leaders. Brutal Yari got the DSS in Abuja to detain the then Speaker, Sanusi Garba Rikiji, his deputy, Muhammad Abubakar Gumi, the Majority Leader, Isah Abdulmumini and the Chief Whip, Abdullahi Dansadau. The remaining 20 members of the Assembly fled to Kaduna to avoid arrest. Prior to this, Yari used miscreants to attack Rikiji. The intimidation worked, with the lawmakers withdrawing their impeachment notice.
Yari’s tenure as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum was also riddled with sleaze allegations against the leadership of the Forum. This association of governors paid billions of Naira to ghost consultants after the governors collected Paris Club refunds. The EFCC spent months trying to retrieve billions of Naira paid to the ghost consultants for allegedly facilitating the Paris Club Refunds. Recall that a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered an interim forfeiture of N500 million and $500,000, suspected to have been laundered by Yari using a ghost NGF consultant.
Abubakar Malami’s Strange Deal with Dikko
For those who have not been following the story, a quick recap. Following the change of government in 2015 and removal of Abdullahi Dikko as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, the EFCC moved against him over alleged massive corruption. While the anti-graft agency was working on the Dikko case, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, struck a “non-prosecution” deal with the ex-Customs boss.
This was because Dikko agreed to restitution in lieu of prosecution. The agreement was based on the return of N1.5 billion to the coffers of the government being proceeds of the crimes Dikko allegedly committed while in office. Only God knows how Malami arrived at this figure. But Dikko made the refund and Malami signed the “non-prosecution” deal. However, the EFCC was not carried along in the transaction.
So, the Ibrahim Magu-led EFCC thought it could continue with the graft case against Dikko. It felt the loot Dikko needed to return was more than the N1.5 billion accepted by Malami. But the anti-sleaze agency was shattered last Monday when a Federal High Court in Abuja barred it from going ahead with the prosecution of Dikko. Delivering a judgment in the suit instituted by Dikko, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held that the non-prosecution agreement entered into between Malami and Dikko was binding on the anti-crime agency. This simply means the EFCC can no longer continue with the prosecution of Dikko. Malami and the DSS boss did not oppose the suit, a development which the judge said indicated that they subscribed to Dikko’s case.
For Magu, the agreement was in bad faith. He was devastated. I fully agree with the EFCC boss. The EFCC should have been involved in the negotiation, culminating in the deal, so that Dikko would refund an amount close to what the EFCC discovered. Malami has simply shortchanged the Nigerian nation. Yes, by virtue of the provisions of Section 174 of the Constitution, the AGF, being the chief law officer of the federation, has wide powers and discretion on prosecution of matters. Such discretions include the entry into a non-prosecution or a deferred prosecution agreement with criminal suspects, and which agreements shall be binding on all prosecutorial agencies. But these powers should not be used to the advantage of criminals.
Justice Dimgba was apt when he said there was need for government to speak with one voice “and not in different tunes that appear to be discordant,” when handling a criminal case. In the Dikko non-prosecution deal, the EFCC ought to have been carried along. The AGF did not do this. Malami must stop using his powers like a tsar to the disadvantage of Nigerians.