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Falana blasts AGF over comments on Dasuki, Sowore’s release

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..Says Malami exposed judiciary to ridicule

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has said on that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has embarrassed the federal government and exposed the judiciary to avoidable ridicule with his comments after the release of the publisher of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore and a former National Secuirity Adviser, NSA, Lt. Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) from illegal custody.

Falana, who is Sowore’s lead defence counsel,  said in a statement on Sunday that Malami embarrassed his office by saying he directed the Department of State Service, DSS to release the men from custody in line with the various court orders for their release only to later state that they were released out of compassion by the government.

He insisted that the two men were kept in detention in violation of the various orders of the Federal High Court, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja and the ECOWAS Court “based on erroneous legal advice”.

Dasuki, was released on the Christmas Eve of 2019 by the DSS after about four years in custody and violation of series of court orders for his release while Sowore, the convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ protests, arrested on August 3, 2019 for allegedly planning to overthrow the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari was also released by the DSS on the same day after he was held for over four months in violation of two court orders.

Their release followed domestic and global outcry against the Federal Government’s acts of disregard to rule of law escalated with invasion of the Federal High Court in Abuja by operatives of the DSS to rearrest Sowore on December 6, 2019.

Since their release, Malami had issued press statements and appeared on television to deny that the two men were released as a result of ‘domestic or international pressure.’

Also, he insisted in his latest television appearance last Thursday that they were released out of compassion because the government having appealed against the court orders granting them bail, had the option of detaining them until the matter was finally disposed of by the Supreme Court.

Part of the statement entitled ‘FG lacks power to detain Sowore, Dasuki in defiance of court orders’ read:

 “Since the release of Sowore and Dasuki from illegal custody on December 24, 2019, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN has put himself under undue pressure. In the process, he has embarrassed the Executive and exposed the Judiciary to ridicule. After announcing that he had directed the state security service to release Sowore and Dasuki from custody in compliance with the court orders that had granted them bail the Justice Minister turned round to say that the release was an act of compassion and mercy on the part of the Executive.

“I was compelled to challenge the claim of the Justice Minister as he lacks the power to release any person standing trial on compassionate grounds by virtue of section 175 of the Constitution. After he had rightly abandoned that dangerous legal route the Justice Minister has since asserted that the federal government was right to have detained the Sowore and Dasuki in defiance of the court orders which had admitted them to bail. In support of the outlandish contention, the Justice Minister said that the federal government was not bound to obey the court orders until the final determination of the appeals filed against the court orders.

“In an interview aired on NTA last Thursday the Justice Minister said “There were appeals (sic) for stay of execution all through. So, until those matters reach the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court takes the final decision, relating there, you are still operating within the ambit and context of rule of law… So, in respect of those orders we are not comfortable with as a government, we go back to the court and have them challenged. Until that matter, that your right of challenge is determined up to the Supreme Court level, the idea of you being charged with disobedience of court order does not arise.

“With respect, the Minister’s statement is factually and legally erroneous in every material particular. If the Justice Minister has had time to review Sowore’s case file which he had withdrawn from the State Security Service he would have confirmed that no appeal was filed against the two decisions of the federal high court which admitted him and his co-defendant, Mr. Olawale Bakare to bail. Instead of challenging the orders granting bail to Sowore and Bakare at the Court of Appeal the State Security Service had actually attempted to constitute itself into an appellate court over the federal high court by insisting on approving the sureties that had been verified by the trial court.

“As defence counsel we rejected the illegal request to produce the sureties before the Director General of of State Security Service until the Honourable Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu gave him a 24-hour ultimatum to release the duo from illegal custody.

“It is on record that Dasuki was granted bail at different times by six judges of the federal high court and the federal capital territory high court. It is pertinent to note that the federal government did not file an appeal against any of the six court orders. In fact, the first bail application of Dasuki was not opposed by Mohammed Diri Esq. who was the then Director of Public Prosecutions from the chambers of the Attorney General of the Federation. Hence, Dasuki was admitted to bail in self recognizance on August 30, 2015. Having not opposed the bail application the federal government could not have filed any appeal against the order of the court.

“Apparently frustrated with the contemptuous conduct of the federal government Dasuki approached the ECOWAS Court for redress. In a landmark judgment delivered on October 4, 2018 the ecowas court indicted Nigeria and awarded N15 million damages in favour of Dasuki for his detention in defiance of the orders of Nigerian courts. According to the judges of the court: “It appears that the sole aim of the re-arrest is to circumvent the grant of bail and by keeping the Applicant in custody through executive fiat unsupported by any law or order of Court.”

“On the allegation that Dasuki was facing a serious charge of the criminal diversion of the sum of $2.1 billion for purchase of arms the ECOWAS Court said that “For the avoidance of doubt any persons who have violated the criminal laws of a State especially the ones impeding the development of the State and destruction of its Common Wealth are liable to be tried and if found guilty should face the consequences of their action(s). However, in doing so, States must respect all International obligations with regard to due process and respect for fundamental rights of the suspects. Failure to do so will impute responsibility to the State regarding such violations of rights while leaving intact their right to prosecute and punish offences against their criminal laws.”

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