The Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS) court in Abuja, on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki (rtd) from detention where he has been kept without trial since December 2015 by the federal government.
The court, in a judgment delivered on Tuesday, held that Dasuki’s detention violated both national and international laws on the right of persons and citizens to freedom of liberty.
The judgment as delivered by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, imposed a fine of N15 million against Nigeria as compensatory damages to the former NSA for the deprivation of his freedom to liberty and the deprivation of his properties.
The regional court dismissed the allegations of unlawful possession of firearms and economic crimes by the federal government to justify Dasuki’s detention and added that the Nigerian government missed the track because the applicant applied before the court for the enforcement of his breached and contravened fundamental rights.
Justice Nwoke said even if the applicant had committed a crime, the law still has it that due process must be followed in his trial adding that it is an established fact that the applicant was put on trial in three different Nigerian Courts and was granted bail by the courts.
The ECOWAS court condemned the action of the Nigerian government for subjecting the former NSA to an indefinite detention without trial because no act of criminality was established against him.
The faulted the federal government’s claim that it detained Dasuki without trial because he (Dasuki) was planning to stage a coup and wage war against millions of Nigerians adding that the defendant (Nigeria) was so confused and not consistent throughout in its defence in the suit against it.
Justice Chijioke further said that the Nigerian government took laws into its hands and made mockery of the rule of law by arresting Dasuki without warrant of arrest or warrant of detention when he had legally been granted bail by appropriate courts.
According to the court, detention order must be made in writing and must be delivered to the detainees adding that in the instant case, none of such was obtained and delivered to Dasuki by the Federal Government before arresting and forcefully took away his properties in his houses in Abuja and Sokoto state.
The court also dismissed the claim of the Federal Government that Dasuki was arrested and detained in his own interest, adding that the claim was an assault to the Nigerian Constitution and other international laws because there was no iota of evidence placed before the court that Dasuki applied for security protection.
The ECOWAS Court said that the claim that Dasuki was detained in his own interest was against the claim made by the federal government that the he was arrested and detained because he constituted a security threat to the country and having also committed some economic crimes.
The court held that the claim that Dasuki was detained in his own interest was unreasonable and that Nigeria, being under a democratic government ought to act within the ambit of the law since every nation is subject to the rule of law.
“Having perused the case before us, we have come to the conclusion that the re-arrest and detention of the applicant after he had been granted bail by three courts since December last year make mockery of the rule of law. Executive arm should not interfere with the judiciary.
“Even if the applicant has committed crimes of whatever nature, the principle of innocence must be respected and the fact that he has been charged to court does not dis-entitle him to freedom of liberty. Courts must rise to their responsibilities and prevent executive lawlessness.
“It is the applicant today, it could be anybody tomorrow. There is no legal basis for the re-arrest of the applicant other than to circumvent the bails granted by courts.
“We have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the purported search warrant claimed to have been obtained by the Nigerian government was an afterthought aimed at perverting the course of justice because the so-called search warrant was not certified and to worsen the case, the defendant claimed that it could not serve the same search warrant on the applicant.
“For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who commits crimes must be put on trial before an appropriate court, but in doing so, the state must respect local and international laws in the prosecution of such persons”, the court held.
The court then declared that the arrest, detention and the continued detention of Dasuki since December 2015 without warrant of arrest was unlawful, arbitrary and done in contravention of both local and international laws, especially Article 5 and 6 of the African Charter on People’s and Persons’ Rights to freedom of Liberty.
The court also held that the invasion of Dasuki’s house in Abuja and Sokoto and forceful removal of his personal properties violated all the relevant laws, especially the Constitution of Nigeria under Section 37 and 44 and ordered that the properties seized must be immediately returned to him.
The court also ordered payment of N15million as compensation to Dasuki for his unlawful arrest, detention and forceful seizure of his properties without lawful court order.
Dasuki had in March this year dragged the Federal Government to the ECOWAS Court to challenge his continued detention without trial since December 2015.
Dasuki who was rearrested by the operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) shortly after perfecting the third bail conditions granted him by Nigerian Courts asked the regional court to enforce his fundamental right as enshrined in the African Charter on the People and Human Right.
The former NSA had asked the ECOWAS Court to declare as unlawful, unconstitutional and breach of his fundamental right by his arrest since last year without a lawful court order.
He had also asked the ECOWAS Court to declare the invasion of his privacy, home, and correspondence at his Abuja and Sokoto homes between July 16 and 17, 2015 and forceful and unlawful seizures of his properties without any lawful order or warrant of a court, constituted a gross violation of his fundamental right under Section 44 of the Nigerian Constitution and other relevant laws.
He had therefore prayed for an order for his release and that of his properties during the invasion of his houses and also demanded a compensatory damage of N500 million against the government for the violation of his right as guaranteed under the law.