Alex Enumah in Abuja
Human rights activist and senior lawyer, Femi Falana SAN has said that the federal government lacked the necessary legal grounds to detain former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki and the Publisher of Saharareporters, Omoyele Sowore, despite court orders.
Both Dasuki and Sowore were on Christmas Eve released from custody of the Department of State Service (DSS) which had kept them despite the bail granted them by various courts in the country, including the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami SAN, had shortly after Dasuki and Sowore’s release disclosed that the defendants were released on compassionate grounds in line with their bail.
Malami who was refuting claims that the federal government had released Dasuki and Sowore because of international pressure particularly from the United States of America and the United Kingdom, claimed that the government had powers to continue to detain Dasuki and Sowore, having appealed the decison of the trial court.
But Falana said: “After announcing that he had directed the state security service to release Sowore and Dasuki from custody in compliance with the court orders that had granted them bail the Justice Minister turned round to say that the release was an act of compassion and mercy on the part of the Executive.
“I was compelled to challenge the claim of the Justice Minister as he lacks the power to release any person standing trial on compassionate grounds by virtue of section 175 of the Constitution. After he had rightly abandoned that dangerous legal route the Justice Minister has since asserted that the federal government was right to have detained the Sowore and Dasuki in defiance of the court orders which had admitted them to bail.”
“In support of the outlandish contention the Justice Minister said that the federal government was not bound to obey the court orders until the final determination of the appeals filed against the court orders”, Falana said in a statement made available to journalists.
While stating that Malami has “put himself under undue pressure” by this position, Falana said the Minister in the process, “has embarrased the Executive and exposed the Judiciary to ridicule”.
In supporting his claim, Falana who is the lead counsel to Sowore, standing trial over alleged treasonable felony cited an interview of Malami aired on NTA last Thursday wherein the Minister claimed that the government filed a stay of execution in the cases of the defendants.
According to the statement, the Justice Minister said “There were appeals (sic) for stay of execution all through. So, until those matters reach the supreme court and the supreme court takes the final decision, relating there, you are still operating within the ambit and context of rule of law… So, in respect of those orders we are not comfortable with as a government, we go back to the court and have them challenged. Until that matter, that your right of challenge, is determined up to the supreme court level, the idea of you being charged with disobedience of court order does not arise.
“With respect, the Minister’s statement is factually and legally erroneous in every material particular. If the Justice Minister has had time to review Sowore’s case file which he had withdrawn from the State Security Service he would have confirmed that no appeal was filed against the two decisions of the federal high court which admitted him and his co-defendant, Mr Olawale Bakare to bail”, he said.
Falana noted that instead of challenging the orders granting bail to Sowore and Bakare at the Court of Appeal the State Security Service had actually attempted to constitute itself into an appellate court over the federal high court by insisting on approving the sureties that had been verified by the trial court.
He recalled that Dasuki was granted bail at different times by six judges of the federal high court and the federal capital territory high court.
“It is pertinent to note that the federal government did not file an appeal against any of the six court orders. In fact, the first bail application of Dasuki was not opposed by Mohammed Diri Esq. who was the then Director of Public Prosecutions from the chambers of the Attorney General of the Federation. Hence, Dasuki was admitted to bail in self recognizance on August 30, 2015. Having not opposed the bail application the federal government could not have filed any appeal against the order of the court”, he added.
Similarly, the senior lawyer submitted that the federal government did not file any appeal against any of the orders of the high courts which had admitted Sowore and Dasuki to bail, adding that no motion was ever filed for stay of execution of any of the court orders.
“Since no notice of appeal or motion for stay of execution was ever filed by the federal government against the orders of bail for Sowore and Dasuki the Justice Minister ought to tender a public apology for misleading the Nigerian people.
“However, if the Justice Minister can produce any notice of appeal or motion for stay of execution in respect of the two cases I will publicly apologise to him for misleading the Nigerian people.
“From the foregoing it is undoubtedly clear that the two orders of the federal high court admitting Sowore to bail were treated with contempt while the eight orders of the federal high court, federal capital territory high court, Ecowas Court and the Court of Appeal which admitted Dasuki to bail were ignored by the federal government based on erroneous legal advice”, the statement read in part.