Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser, regained his freedom on Christmas eve, after four years of detention by officials of the State Security Services (SSS).
Mr Dasuki, a retired Nigerian Army colonel, had been held by the SSS since December 2015 when he was arrested on allegations he diverted $2.1 billion from funds meant for the war against terrorism.
He has denied wrongdoing and is yet to be convicted.
Since his arrest and arraignment, Mr Dasuki has been granted bail at least seven times by various courts, with the SSS refusing to heed all the orders.
The SSS, an agency under the direct control of the president, is notorious for disobeying court rulings.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who is now retired, on November 3, 2015, granted the former NSA’s request to be allowed to travel abroad for cancer treatment.
But instead of obeying the court order, the SSS mounted a siege on his residence, effectually placing him under house arrest. He was again taken into custody on December 1.
In a bid to justify their action, the SSS explained at that period, Mr Dasuki was under investigation for a separate offence.
The EFCC then arraigned Mr Dasuki and others before Justice Peter Affen on a 22-count charge.
Those he was charged with include a former minister of state for finance, Bashir Yuguda; a former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; his son, Sagir and his company, Dalhatu Investment Limited.
They were charged on a 25-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds to the tune N19.4 billion.
Following this, Justice Affen, again this time granted him bail after the court held that he was arraigned before it on the same charges of corruption.
The judge ordered Mr Dasuki and his co-accused persons to pay the sum of N250 million each and provide two sureties in like sum.
But the case was moved to Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf’s court due to the defence team’s complaints that it would amount to double jeopardy for their clients to be standing trial in two courts simultaneously on similar charges. The new judge allowed them to remain on the bail earlier granted them.
Before the case was transferred to Justice Baba-Yusuf, Mr Dasuki was standing trial before him alongside a former general manager in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Aminu Baba- Kusa, and two firms: Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited.
They were re-arraigned on an amended 32-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust, ‘dishonest release’ and illegally receiving various sums of money to the tune of N33.2 billion.
While the others were allowed on bail, the state held on to the former NSA on the grounds that he was being held in relation to separate offences, a position in which Mr Dasuki challenged up to the Supreme Court.
However, after fulfilling the bail conditions, Mr Dasuki was denied bail and was detained at the Kuje Prison. His lawyer, Ahmed Raji, described the SSS’s action as “an affront to the rule of law under democracy.”
The former NSA approached the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court) in 2016. The court ruled that his continued detention, despite a valid court order granting him bail, was unlawful and an affront to his fundamental human rights.
The court also ruled that the federal government should pay Mr Dasuki N15 million as damages, adding that the cost of litigation should also be borne by the Nigerian government.
Despite the court judgement and criticism by local and international human rights activists, Mr Dasuki was still detained by the government.
On January 24, 2017, Justice Baba Yusuf, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, reaffirmed Dasuki’s bail, stressing that he was entitled to it and having been admitted to same since 2015 when the federal government brought criminal charges against him.
Similarly, in April 2017, Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja, affirmed the bail granted the former NSA in 2015.
Yet, the state security service disobeyed.
Again, Mr Dasuki returned to the Federal High Court with a fundamental rights enforcement application, similar to the one the ECOWAS court upheld.
Delivering judgement in that suit on July 2, 2018, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court equally held in the former NSA’s favour and declared that his detention was illegal.
Justice Ojukwu granted him bail in the sum of N200 million in the first with two sureties.
According to the judge, the sureties must be civil servants of not lower than grade level 16, or, must be owners of landed property in any highbrow area of Abuja and must submit the original title documents to the registry of the court.
The judge further said that such sureties are also to submit to the court, their evidence of tax payments for 2015, 2016, and 2017.
In order to guarantee Mr Dasuki’s bail, Justice Ojukwu also ordered that the former NSA or either of his sureties should pay the sum of N100 million to the court’s account which, which she added that could only be taken back after the completion of the case.
These were tougher conditions than the N250 million bail granted him in 2015.
Mr Dasuki requested for a bail variation but the trial court declined. With this outcome, the former NSA approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja, for a variation of the bail conditions.
On November 22, the Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgement by a three-member panel led by Justice Stephen Adah abolished the trial court’s requirement that Mr Dasuki should produce a Level 16 civil servant, who must own a property worth N100 million within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as surety.
Mr Adah held that it was an ‘oversight’ on the part of the court to have included civil servants as sureties.
The judge, instead, ordered that Mr Dasuki should produce two sureties, with property worth N100 million within the FCT.
The November 22, judgement of the appellant court was a review of its earlier judgment delivered on July 13, on the original appeal the former NSA filed against the stringent conditions, according to him.
Before the later judgement by the appeal court, the court had granted Mr Dasuki bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum
The court held that the sureties must be public servants not below the rank of grade-level 16, with the federal or state government or any of its agencies and shall provide a valid document for his or her status to the registrar of the Court below.
The court also ordered the federal government to pay Mr Dasuki N5 million for holding him against the provisions of section 35 (6) of the constitution which gives every Nigerian the right to free movement.
Dissatisfied with the bail conditions, Mr Dasuki, in another application before the appellate court, asked for a further review.
At a point, Mr Dasuki said he would no longer appear in court until his right to bail is enforced.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how he was released on the directive of Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who had defended Mr Dasuki’s illegal incarceration in the past but on Tuesday ordered his release.
He was released on the same day as Omoyele Sowore, an activist who is being prosecuted for calling for a revolution against bad governance.
The government, which had come under intense criticism from local and foreign observers since its illegal detention of Mr Sowore, eventually buckled.
Meanwhile, the former NSA, who spoke during a radio interview with the Voice of America, Hausa Service, on Wednesday, said he is ready to stand trial.
“Of course, I stopped going to the court because I was granted bail but the government refused to release me and I said whenever the bail order is complied with I will appear before the court and defend myself. I am ready,” Mr Dasuki said.