Some lawyers on Wednesday flayed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for his statement justifying the flouting of a court order.
An Abuja based lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi, specifically asked Nigeria’s Body of Benchers to de-robe Mr Malami for allegedly ”scandalising the legal profession.”
Mr Jideobi’s petition followed a recent statement by Mr Malami explaining why the government would not release a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, despite court orders directing that he be granted bail.
Mr Malami had 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 office 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.
A copy of the petition made available to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday indicates Mr Jideobi saying the ”AGF explanation in the report is contrary to what he represents in the legal profession”.
“The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is recognised as a great historic office that places its occupier in the rare position of the “keeper of the king’s conscience”, the Chief Law Officer/Legal Adviser is not only to the President of the Nation alone but equally to the entire federal government with all the ministries, departments and agencies thereunder.
“Added to these super responsibilities, by the ancient and ever-unbroken tradition of our profession, the Attorney-General of the Federation is rightly acclaimed the “Leader of the Bar”.”
Mr Jideobi said nothing projects more the enormity of Mr Malami’s iniquity than the interview he granted where he defended the indefensible.
“A lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner,” Mr Jideobi said in his petition.
According to Mr. Jideobi, a country fighting corruption should not be found wanting in the area of disobeying court orders.
“Any genuine war against corruption should ordinarily command the support of all men of goodwill. However, nobody should be allowed to hide under the guise of supporting the war against corruption to undermine and spurn our constitution by pulling wool over the eyes of undiscerning members of the public.
“That a government can keep a citizen behind bars despite avalanche of valid court orders is rather mind-boggling. However, that the defence of such impunity could emanate from the head and mouth of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria [and more so the Chief Law Officer of the Federation] makes it most unfortunate. Mr Malami cannot be allowed to enthrone let alone perpetuate a dangerous precedent. He is traumatising our settled constitutional jurisprudence and the brazen assault must now be halted,” Mr Jideobi said.
In his reaction, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chijioke Okoli, also chided Mr Malami.
“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.”
Another senior advocate, Rotimi Oguneso, also said the decision to continue to detain Mr Dasuki amounts 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.”
An Abuja-based lawyer, Monday Ejeh, also 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 personal to anybody. 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.”