ollowing Monday, July 2 ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ordering the release of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) on bail, lawyers have called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to obey the order.
However, Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) in an interview published on July 13 explained why the government would rather the former NSA remained in custody despite the court order.
Speaking, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu, and Olusina Fasugba all called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately comply with the order and release the former National Security Adviser.
The lawyers maintained that the Federal Government’s serial disobedience of court orders on the release of Dasuki diminishes its standing among right thinking members of the public.
Agbakoba, who lamented that the government had made a bad habit of disobeying past court orders on Dasuki, worried that it might yet again defy the latest court ruling, adding this tendency diminishes it.
He said, “I will be surprised if the government obeys this latest order to release Dasuki, because this is not the first time various courts in the country have given the same order.
“The government must realise that each time it defies a court order, it diminishes it. It presents the president as running an authoritarian regime.
“And it is a misnomer under a civil, constitutional government. If government knows what is good for it, it should act immediately and release Dasuki as ordered by the court.”
Speaking in the same vein, Ugwummadu, said, “Over the case of Dasuki and El Zakzaki it is sad to note that the Federal Government has failed to discharge itself as ready to be bound by the rule of law.
“Under s. 287 of the constitution, the government is duty-bound to respect and comply with the order of a court of record, and the Federal High Court is one of such courts of record.
“The Federal Government is, therefore, bound by the order of court even if it is delivered per incuriam.”
For Fasugba, the Buhari-led government should be wary of projecting the image of a despot and obey the court order admitting Dasuki to bail.
He said, “It is trite law that bail should avail any accused person on the ground that under the constitution an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“By keeping an accused person in custody despite court order means the government is usurping the power of the court.
“It is assuming the role of the prosecutor and judge.”
Abubakar Malami claimed Buhari is a stickler for rule of law; however the allegations against Dasuki, he said, are a matter of public interest overriding any individual’s rights.
“What I want you to know is that issues concerning law and order under Muhammadu Buhari are sacrosanct and obeying court order is compulsory,” he said.
“However you should also know that there is a general consensus world over that where the dispute is only between individuals, then you can consider the issue based on the instant situation.
“But if the dispute is about an issue that affects an entire nation, then you have to remember that government is about the people not for only an individual.
“So you have to look at it from this perspective. If the issue about an individual coincides with that which affects the people of a nation and you are now saying the government did not obey a court order that infringes on a single person’s rights.
“Remember we are talking about a person who was instrumental to the deaths of over one hundred thousand people. Are you saying that the right of one person is more important than that of 100,000 who lost their lives?
“Reports have shown that there was massive mismanagement of funds meant for military hardware which the military could not access and that led to the death of many, embezzlement of the fund and because of that many people have lost their lives.
“Obeying the court is not the issue per say. Are we going to take the issue of an individual more important than that of the people?
“The government’s main responsibility is for and about the people. The essence of governance is to better the lives of its people. So you have to weigh it based on that; the rights of an individual or the rights of the people.”
Malami noted however that the government may decide to appeal the court order if it feels compelled to so do.