The federal government has given reasons why it believes the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, should not be granted bail.
The attorney general, Abubakar Malami, said Mr Dasuki’s personal right can be violated for the larger public good.
He accused Mr Dasuki of being responsible for more than 100, 000 deaths.
His comments came after a federal court recently granted Mr Dasuki bail, the latest of such orders.
The former NSA was arrested by operatives of the State Security Service in December 2015, accused of illegal possession of firearms.
He was also accused of diverting $2.1 billion from while he served as NSA. Mr Dasuki is facing separate trials for the alleged offences.
Since his arrest in 2015, Mr Dasuki has been granted bail multiple times by different courts. The latest bail was approved on July 2.
But the Nigerian government has refused to release him.
Following the government’s failure to obey the various court orders, Mr Dasuki’s lawyers asked the court to prevent the continuation of their client’s case on the grounds that the government agencies prosecuting Mr Dasuki had refused to obey legitimate orders of court.
A new interview by Attorney General Abubakar Malami with the Voice of America, Hausa, has shed light on the government’s thinking.
The interview was published on July 13 but has just been obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
In it, Mr Malami claimed allegations against Mr Dasuk are a matter of public interest overriding an individual’s rights.
“What I want you to know is that issues concerning law and order under Muhammadu Buhari are sacrosanct and obeying court order is compulsory,” he said.
“However you should also know that there is a general consensus world over that where the dispute is only between individuals, then you can consider the issue based on the instant situation. But if the dispute is about an issue that affects an entire nation, then you have to remember that government is about the people not for only an individual.
“So you have to look at it from this perspective. If the issue about an individual coincides with that which affects the people of a nation and you are now saying the government did not obey a court order that infringes on a single person’s rights. Remember we are talking about a person who was instrumental to the deaths of over one hundred thousand people. Are you saying that the rights of one person is more important than that of 100,000 who lost their lives?
“Reports have shown that there was massive mismanagement of funds meant for military hardware which the military could not access and that led to the death of many, embezzlement of the fund and because of that many people have lost their lives. Obeying the court is not the issue per say. Are we going to take the issue of an individual more important than that of the people? The government’s main responsibility is for and about the people. The essence of governance is to better the lives of its people. So you have to weigh it based on that; the rights of an individual or the rights of the people.”
Mr Malami however said the government may decide to appeal the court order if it feels compelled to do so.
Reacting to the comments made by the AGF, some lawyers described the actions of the federal government as an invitation to anarchy.
In his reaction, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chijioke Okoli, said: “The government and the attorney general cannot be the court. This government came into power by acts of law. And if it chooses to disregard court orders, that is lawlessness and it is an invitation to anarchy. This government is a government of law.
“It came into powers not by its own powers but by law, so if the same government now chooses to regard its powers above the law then that is very unfortunate.”
In a similar opinion, another senior advocate, Rotimi Oguneso, said a decision to still detain Mr Dasuki will amount to lawlessness.
“We are all under the law and the rule of law must prevail. If we don’t aide by the rule of law, that’s an invitation to anarchy.
“If he has been given bail and there is no appeal nor stay, then the natural thing is for the people holding him to release him on bail. Anything to the contrary will amount to trampling on the rule of law. And it won’t be good for the society.
“The court must have taken into consideration what he is been accused of. Who determines the bail or the enormity of the offence? It is the court. If the court says that from the circumstances he must be entitled to bail, then I think the natural consequences ought to follow. And since the court has granted him bail, the next thing is for the order to be followed.”
In a yet another opinion, an Abuja-based lawyer, Monday Ejeh, said there was no justifiable reason for the continuous detention of Mr Dasuki.
“There is no reason that can justify any breach of the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction. The courts are competent to decide on issues of personal of any body. Once those issues have been taken and orders have been made. Whether the orders are consequential or directly on the issues canvassed before the court, everybody has a duty in promotion of the rule of law to comply with that order.”
In his opinion another senior advocate, Mike Ozekhome, described the government’s stance as “outright impunity”.
“It’s simply a government given to unparalleled impunity and executive lawlessness,” he said. “And it does it shamelessly and audaciously, believing that it possesses all the apparatchik of coercion and life and death over Nigerians. Obedience to court orders is the cornerstone of any constitutional democracy. The alternative is chaos and anarchy.”
Rule of law
President Muhammadu Buhari has at different times pledged his government’s resolve to comply with the rule of law, as a form of respect for constituted authority.
In a recent address delivered to the leaders of the International Criminal Court in Netherland, President Muhammadu Buhari made another statement of his government’s commitment to the rule of law.
“Our cooperation with the Court is borne out of our strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in our firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels, as ingrained in the objectives for establishing the Court,” Mr Buhari said.
Reacting to the submissions of the president, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said Mr Buhari should ensure Mr Dasuki’s release.
“Having assured the international community of the commitment of the Federal Government to respect the rule of law and the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at the domestic and international levels President Buhari ought to order immediate release of Colonel Dasuki (rtd) on bail in strict compliance with the orders of the Federal High Court, Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the ECOWAS Court without any further delay,” Mr Falana said.