A recent order by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, directing compliance to a Supreme Court Ruling on the NFF crisis presents a clear case of double standards, when a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been kept in detention for nearly three years despite different court rulings granting him bail. Shola Oyeyipo writes
Immediately after a Supreme Court sacked the Amaju Pinnick leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) wrote to the Ministry of Sports, directing compliance. Even though the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is averse to government’s interference by whatever form or shape, which the NFF debacle is being reduced to, the minister still instructed immediate compliance and pronto, the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung did as said.
Government’s argument for its immediate compliance, perhaps, was that it wanted to be known and respected for its obedience to court and this much, President Muhammadu Buhari also alluded to in his statement commending the Supreme Court in a different ruling, which cleared Senate President Bukola Saraki of all corruption charges.
With a rare sense of pride, located only in his confidence in the judiciary, the president held the third arm of government in very high esteem for living up to billings.
But the irony here is that at different times numbering five, various courts, including ECOWAS had granted bail to Col. Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser, who is being held since December 2015 for allegedly fleecing money meant for arms, an offence government said was no less a felony.
Unfortunately, Dasuki’s case is the reason many do not take seriously, the statement by President Buhari, which commended the Supreme Court ruling on Saraki or the familiar grandstanding of the government on being law-abiding, because it is often accused of double standards.
It therefore begs the question: what yardstick is being used for the rulings obeyed and the ones disobeyed? Government’s allusion to an independent judiciary is evidently two-faced and sadly, it has not been able to gain from one, what it lost abysmally in another.
Indeed, there is a certain level of illegality that connotes arbitrariness, which the English dictionary describes as an action “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.” This, exactly, is where Buhari’s government is considered as operating.
Whatever explanation the federal government may have for disobeying court orders and keeping Dasuki in its custody, especially with the lasts one granted by Hon. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of Abuja division of the Federal High Court (FHC) was in total breach of the spirit and letters of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended particularly, in (S.1 (1), Chapter 1, Part 1), which guarantees the principle of rule of law; that no person or institution (even the president inclusive), is above the law.
The action is also in contravention of the constitutional principle of division and separation of powers among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary arms of government as contained in sections 4 and 7 of the constitution, because by ignoring the court, government was reducing the judiciary in the scheme of things.
Accused of spearheading the diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the procurement of arms to combat Boko Haram insurgent, while he was the NSA and illegal possession of firearms, Dasuki was arrested in December of 2015 and has since been in detention. But his case has continued to elicit discontent among a majority of Nigerians.
A security analyst and consultant, Don Okereke queries: “Why is the Buhari administration ‘afraid’ of Sambo Dasuki?” adding: “Does he know what we don’t know? This is the umpteenth time a court of competent jurisdiction will grant him bail but it seems this regime is bent on keeping him behind bars.”
Legal practitioner, Mr. Mathew Ottah, on his part, said: “So, Dasuki that has been held incommunicado for three years and violating his human rights shows Buhari does not support illegality and it is the rule of law to disobey court orders to grant him bail!”
Human right activist, Nkiruka Nistorian asked President Buhari if he is still “going to disobey court order to release Dasuki?”
Lawyer and former National Secretary, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo canvassed for a court boycott protest among lawyers as a way to call government to order, failing which he has vowed to carry out personally.
“If the executive fails to honour the bail order by Justice Ojukwu within seven (7) days of fulfillment of the bail condition as stipulated by the court, I appeal to the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to boycott the courts and urge the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to resign his position in the circumstance.
“But let me also put on record without equivocation that should the NBA fail to see this threat to democracy and heed my appeal, I will proceed to boycott the courts and galvanise like minds in this regard to show that Nigeria is not a Banana Republic, where the government can pick and choose which court order to obey or disobey.”
But the government and security agents holding Dasuki are not alone in the decision to keep the former NSA in captive. Public opinion analyst, Idyat Omolola Isiaq, maintained that “Anybody in support of court order to grant Dasuki bail for foreign medical treatment is an enemy of Nigeria.”
The argument is that Dasuki committed treason by sharing funds meant to tackle Boko Haram, and that any court that grants him bail must have been compromised.
That was similar to the position taken by the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who urged a Federal Capital Territory High Court at the onset of the matter that considering the gravity of the charges against Dasuki and other defendants, it was risky to grant them bail.
Arguing that going by nature of the charges against them and the proof of evidence, it would be risky to grant them bail, saying “If they were granted bail, they may not be available to stand trial because the count in the charge attracts 10 years in prison. The tendency for the accused to jump bail is high.”
There seems to be a kind of confusion on the part of the leadership on the political correctness of retaining Dasuki in captivity and the place of the rule of law in an aspiring free nation. It has been a debate where well-meaning Nigerians have urged the Nigerian leader to opt for the path of honour by bowing to the decisions of the courts.
This is more so, because when taking his Oath of Office on May 29, 2015, President Buhari said, “The federal executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the constitution.”
Even if the president is committed to the oath, he would not boast to have complied with it in Dasuki’s case. The security agents have flagrantly ignored the court as against his promise.
In fact, Ajulo scored the president low in this regard, because according to him, “Three years down the line, this solemn vow seems to have been kept in the breach as the presidency, the federal executive in Nigeria has obviously disregarded and discountenanced, with impunity, any ruling or judgment of court which appears not to suit its purpose.
“In a country where the rule of law is given any regard at all, adherence to court rulings should not be about an individual’s feelings, whims and caprices, rather deference and absolute obedience to one of the fulcrums of our democracy and maintenance of the sanctity of the courts should be the order of the day.”
While the discussion on whether his detention is lawful or not lingers, the perception of those who feel Buhari is determined to get his own pound of flesh out of the former NSA over the treatments he meted to him when his military administration was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida persists.
In I985, when Babangida, overthrew Buhari in a military coup, Dasuki put him behind bars at a time the Muslims were celebrating their festival and prevented him from enjoying the public holidays
The former NSA went with a team of four policemen, arrested Buhari on August 26, 1985. His government was overthrown by IBB through Dasuki’s help. Dasuki was then made the aide-de-camp to Babangida. Buhari was kept in detention for two years and this affected his life in many ways including his first marriage.
While Dasuki is being prosecuted by the Buhari administration over alleged fraud and embezzlement of funds meant for procurement of arms during the last administration, many are of the opinions that there was more to it than meets the eye.
As it stands today, it is not yet uhuru for Dasuki until the court order is fully implemented. And until then, the portrait of justice as painted by the Buhari administration is one of personal interpretation.