The Federal Government on Wednesday gave reason why it did not immediately comply with the judgement of an ECOWAS Court to release a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The court on Tuesday gave judgement directing the release of Mr. Dasuki.
On Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the government needs to study the content of the ruling before acting on it.
Mr. Dasuki has been detained since last year for allegedly mismanaging billions of dollars meant for purchase of arms as well as for illegal possession of arms.
Salihu Isah, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to Mr. Malami, gave PREMIUM TIMES the government’s stance in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning.
He said the government needed to fully understand the content of the court’s proceedings and judgement before reacting.
“We cannot just react. We will first of all study the judgement to understand its content before taking a stand,” he said.
The ECOWAS Court ordered the release of Mr. Dasuki on Tuesday, describing his arrest and continued detention as unlawful and arbitrary.
The three-member panel of the court, led by Justice Friday Nwoke, said the search conducted at Mr. Dasuki’s residence without a warrant was illegal and against Nigerian laws.
Although the court said it would not go into the details of whether or not Mr. Dasuki’s alleged possession of arms were criminal, it added that an owner was entitled to enjoyment of its property.
The court said the manner of arrest and detention of Mr. Dasuki were contrary to Article Six of the African Charter on Human Rights and Article 9 (1) of the international order on civil and political rights.
“Liberty is the rule and detention is the exception,” said Mr. Nwoke, who added that the deprivation of Mr. Dasuki’s liberty should only be considered if he is convicted by a court of law.
The Court ordered the Federal Government to pay N15 million as damages to Mr. Dasuki.
With the stance of the chief law officer of the Nigerian government, Mr. Dasuki may still spend more time in jail.
DISOBEYING COURT ORDERS
The federal government had at three different times failed to obey court orders granting Mr. Dasuki bail in the past.
The former NSA; a former Minister for State of Finance, Bashir Yuguda; former Sokoto Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; and three others were granted bail on December 21 by the Federal Capital Territory High Court in the sum of N250 million each and two sureties in like sum.
They were taken to court on a 22-count charge for alleged diversion of funds, misappropriation and breach of trust to the tune of N19.4 billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Despite fulfilling the conditions for his bail set by Justice Peter Affen, the State Security Service, refused to release Mr. Dasuki.
Before that bail, the former NSA was granted bail on two other occasions.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court had on November 3 granted bail to Mr. Dasuki, who was charged for unlawful possession of firearms.
The SSS however scuttled the bail the following day as its operatives continued to lay siege on Mr. Dasuki’s residence in the Asokoro District of Abuja where he was kept under house arrest.
The service had claimed at the time that the former NSA was under investigation for another offence.
Mr. Dasuki was subsequently arraigned before an Abuja High Court for alleged breach of trust. Although the court granted him bail, the security outfit ignored it.
Legal experts spoke with PREMIUM TIMES explaining the effects of obedience or disobedience of the orders by government on Nigeria’s image.
According to Samson Ameh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the ECOWAS Court judgement is more like a policy, which is not enforceable.
“ECOWAS court can entertain cases, but it has no infrastructures to enforce its judgements. It is the country from where the case came from that it would rely upon to enforce the said judgement,” the lawyer said.
“Any country has the right to enforce or fail to enforce the judgement. There are no side effects legally, except that the image of the country may be lowered. It is like a moral, rather than a legal responsibility,” he added
Another Senior Advocate, Akinolu Kehinde, added that the ECOWAS court had no powers to compel enforcement of its judgements.
“ECOWAS court does not have exit powers; it does not have the lead to compel enforcement of its judgements,” he said.
He however added that Nigeria has a lot to lose if it fails to obey the said judgement.
“Nigeria is a signatory to the protocol setting up that court and a key member of ECOWAS, so it will not be nice if this country fails to obey its judgements,” he said.