ECONOMIC Community of West Africa State, ECOWAS, Court in Abuja yesterday ordered immediate release of former National Security Adviser, NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), from detention where he has been kept without trial since December 2015 by the federal government. The regional court held that the detention of Dasuki violated both national and international laws on the right of persons and citizens to freedom of liberty. In the judgement by the court delivered by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, the ECOWAS Court imposed a fine of N15million against Nigeria as compensatory damages to the former NSA for the deprivation of his freedom to liberty and the deprivation of his properties. In the judgement that lasted over one hour, the regional court dismissed the allegations of unlawful possession of firearms and economic crimes used by the federal government to justify the detention of Dasuki, adding that the Nigerian government missed the track because the applicant applied before the court for the enforcement of his breached and contravened fundamental rights. Justice Nwoke said that even if the applicant had committed a crime, the law still had it that due process of the law must be observed in his trial, adding that it was an established fact that the applicant was put on trial in three different Nigerian High Courts and was granted bails by the courts. The court also averred that the action of the Nigerian government in subjecting the former NSA into indefinite detention without trial was condemnable because criminality had not been established against him. The ECOWAS court came down heavily on the federal government on its claim that it detained Dasuki without trial because he (Dasuki) was planning to stage a coup and wage war against millions of Nigerians, noting that the defendant (Nigeria) was so confused and not consistent throughout its defence in the suit against it. Justice Nwoke further said that the Nigerian government took laws into its hands and made mockery of the rule of law by arresting the applicant without warrant of arrest or warrant of detention when he had legally been granted bail by appropriate courts. According to the court, detention order must be made in writing and must be delivered to the detainees, adding that in the instant case, none of such was obtained and delivered to Dasuki by the federal government before arresting and executing and forcefully taking away properties of the applicant in his houses in Abuja and Sokoto.
The court also dismissed the claim of the federal government that Dasuki was arrested and detained in his own interest, adding that the claim was an assault to the Nigerian Constitution and other international laws, because there was no iota of evidence placed before the court that the applicant applied for security protection. Besides, the court said that the claim of the Nigerian government that Dasuki was detained in his own interest was against the claim made by the same government that the applicant was arrested and detained because he constituted a security threat to the Nigerian nation and having also committed some economic crimes. The court held that the claim that Dasuki was detained in his own interest was unreasonable and that Nigeria being under a democratic government where the rule of law is expected to be protected ought to act within the ambit of the law, since every nation is subject to the rule of law. “Having perused the case before us, we have come to the conclusion that the re- arrest and detention of the applicant after he had been granted bail by three courts since December last year make mockery of the rule of law. Executive arm should not interfere with the judiciary. “Even if the applicant has committed crimes of whatever nature, the principle of innocence must be respected and the fact that he has been charged to court does not disentitle him to freedom of liberty… Courts must rise to their responsibilities and prevent executive lawlessness. “It is the applicant today; it could be anybody tomorrow. There is no legal basis for the re-arrest of the applicant other than to circumvent the bails granted by courts. “We have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the purported search warrant claimed to have been obtained by the Nigerian government was an afterthought aimed at perverting the course of justice, because the so-called search warrant was not certified and to worsened the case the defendant claimed that it could not serve the same search warrant on the applicant. “For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who commits crimes must be put on trial before an appropriate court but in doing so, the state must respect local and international laws in the prosecution of such persons.” The court therefore declared that the arrest, detention and the continued detention of Dasuki since December 2015 without warrant of arrest were unlawful, arbitrary and done in contravention of both local and international laws, especially Article 5 and 6 of the African Charter on People’s and Persons’ Rights to Freedom of Liberty. The court also ordered that the invasion
of Dasuki’s house in Abuja and Sokoto and forceful removal of his personal properties violated all the relevant laws, especially the Constitution of Nigeria under Section 37 and 44, and ordered that the properties seized must be immediately returned to him. The court also ordered payment of N15million as compensation to him for his unlawful arrest, detention and forceful seizure of his properties without lawful court order. Dasuki had in March this year dragged the federal government before the ECOWAS Court of Justice over his continued detention without trial since December 2015. Dasuki, who was rearrested by the operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, shortly after perfecting the third bail conditions granted him by Nigerian courts, asked the ECOWAS Court to enforce his fundamental rights as enshrined in the African Charter on the People and Human Right. In the legal action instituted by his counsel, Mr. Robert Emukpoeruo, the former NSA asked the ECOWAS Court to declare as unlawful and unconstitutional, and breach of his fundamental right his arrest since last year without a lawful court order. The applicant also prayed the court to declare the action of government in keeping him in a dehumanising condition after the bails as unlawful and violation of his right to dignity of human person, privacy and family life guaranteed and protected under Section 34 and 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right and Article 12 of the Universal of Human Rights. He also asked the ECOWAS Court to declare that the invasion of his privacy, home and correspondence at his Abuja and Sokoto homes between July 16 and 17, 2015, during Ramadan fast, forceful and unlawful seizures of his properties without any lawful order or warrant of a court constituted a gross violation of his fundamental rights under Section 44 of the Nigerian Constitution and other relevant laws. Apart from seeking for his release to face adequately charges against him in courts, Dasuki also demanded a compensatory damage of N500 million against the government for its egregious violation of his rights as guaranteed under the law. Reacting to the judgement, Mr. Wale Balogun, who stood for Dasuki in Court, expressed optimism that the federal government, being a major stakeholder and signatory to the protocol of the ECOWAS Court and being a democratic government, would obey and implement the orders issued by the court.