Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has accused a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), of concocting constitutional provisions for “mischief’’ in a matter relating to the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and the Convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore.
Falana, responding to an earlier claim by the minister that Dasuki and Sowore were released on compassionate grounds, had on Sunday stated that Malami lacked powers to order the release of any detainee out of mercy.
In a letter addressed to Malami, Falana had said only the president and state governors could exercise the prerogative of mercy or release any convicted person on compassionate grounds.
He said the minister should have apologised to Sowore and Dasuki rather than making such a claim, which he described as an “apologia for official impunity.’’
However, in a statement issued yesterday by the Special Adviser (Media and Public Relations) Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, the minister accused Falana of mischief.
“The initial reaction of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation was to ignore the letter, as it is replete with misinformation and evinces lack of proper understanding of the law and issues implicated.
“The Office of Attorney General of the Federation has, however, decided to respond thereto in order to clarify the issues involved in the overall interest of the public. First, it is beyond doubt that the Federal Government of Nigeria or any prosecuting authority has been vested with constitutional right of appeal in criminal prosecutions,’’ the statement explained.
Malami added that these rights extend to rulings on bail and right to seek to vary terms of bail, among others, saying in any circumstance where this right is waived by the prosecution, it can only be for valid reasons, including compassion, after all connected issues have been duly considered.
“It is further appalling to note that in a bid to garner media-hype in condemnation of a valid governmental action taken in good faith and in the interest of the general public, Falana, (SAN) resorted to quoting non-existing sections of the constitution by stating that: Malami (SAN) should have apologised to Col. Dasuki (rtd.) and Sowore in accordance with Section 32(6) of the 1999 Constitution….
“It is unfortunate that a senior member of the Bar could resort to concoctions and fabrications of non-existing provisions just to score cheap media publicity. Another attempt to confuse the facts and misinform the general public was Falana’s reliance on Sections 175 of the Constitution on Prerogative of Mercy,” he stated.
Highlighting his statement, which Falana allegedly responded to, the minister said he did not state that Dasuki and Sowore were released further to the constitutional provisions on Prerogative of Mercy.
He advised Falana to desist from stretching arguments beyond reasonable limits in order to score cheap political points, arguing that it is a common knowledge that “prerogative of mercy and compassion simpliciter are two different concepts.’’
The minister assured the public that the federal government is committed to preserving the unity of the nation in accordance with the rule of law and respect for the constitution.