Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday explained that the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky was not released alongside Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore few days ago, because the case against him was a matter for the Kaduna State government.
Dasuki, former National Security Adviser (NSA) to President Goodluck Jonathan and Sowore, Publisher of SaharaReporters online news were on Tuesday released from detention following a directive issued to the Department of State Service (DSS) by the AGF.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, a former judge at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court had in a judgment in a fundamental rights suit ordered the release of El-Zakyzaky and his wife after declaring that their detention by the DSS was illegal.
However, explaining why El-Zakyzaky and wife are still in custody of the DSS against the judgment of the court, Malami stated that the case against the Islamic leader was a state matter.
The AGF’s position was contained in a statement made available to journalists by his Media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu.
Gwandu in the statement said: “On Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the Minister said that the Federal Government does not interfere with the cases that are being prosecuted by a State Government.”
El-Zakyzaky and wife are currently being prosecuted by the Kaduna State Government on charges bordering on murder and disturbance of public peace.
They were recently released to go on medical attention in India but were immediately taken into custody on their return to the country.
In commending the release of Dasuki and Sowore, senior lawyers in the country and other Nigerians had urged the federal government to extend the same gesture to El-Zakyzaky and his wife, who have been in custody of the DSS since 2016 inspite of a court order for their release.
Also, the AGF, while explaining why the federal government decided to release Dasuki and Sowore, denied being under any kind of pressure particularly from the international community.
He explained that the decision was in line with the bail granted the defendants by the court, adding that the administration has high regard for the rule of law at all times.
“The only reasons for the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki revolved around our commitment to the rule of law, obedience to court orders and compassionate grounds.
“It is important to understand the fact that as far as the law is concerned and in relation to the Nigerian justice system, one has multiple options after a court has ruled on a matter”, the statement explained.
While the statement further noted that Dasuki and Sowore were released out of compassion and mercy as well as obedience to the rule of law, it emphasized that their release has no extraneous consideration as the federal government has the right to keep detaining the suspects while challenging the order admitting them to bail up to the apex court.
Malami repudiated the claim that his office had received a formal communication from any American Senator on the matter and that the discussion during the visit of the American Ambassador to Nigeria to submit his letter of credence were not in any way connected to the accused persons.
“Even if we received any communication from them, that will never be the basis on the part of the Federal Government to obey or disobey court orders emanating from Nigeria”, he said.
Malami said each of the cases of Dasuki and Sowore were treated on their individual merit and not in relation to one another or any other factors while describing as blatant falsehood the claims that Dasuki was detained for scoring certain primordial sentiments.
“The critical question that you may ask should be whether there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence or not. If there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence which deserved, as a matter of necessity, to be investigated through legal steps, then there was no room for thinking of witch hunting an individual, scoring acrimonies or personal vendetta against anyone,” he said.
He recalled that all individuals that were suspected of committing offences at various levels and at various times were charged to court with some granted bail based on the merits of their cases.
“The time has now come for Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore to also enjoy bail based on the merit of their individual cases. They were charged based on their individual cases, taken to court, granted bail and now have been released. All the individuals involved were treated fairly and justly; they were taken to court, enjoyed the court’s favourable discretion and they were all released,” Malami said.