A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted bail to former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd).
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in a judgment yesterday, said Dasuki’s continued detention by the state, without sufficient reasons, violated his right to liberty.
The judgment was on a fundamental rights enforcement application by Dasuki, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) since December 29, 2015.
Justice Ojukwu granted Dasuki bail at N200 million with two sureties, who must be either a civil servant on Grade Level 16 in the Federal Civil Service or a private citizen with landed properties in the municipal areas of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
For the civil servant, the judge said he or she must submit a letter of appointment and letter of last promotion to the court for verification.
Also, the judge said the sureties must show evidence of tax payment for the last three years (2015 to 2017).
Justice Ojukwu rejected Dasuki’s prayer for N5 billion damages, but said should there be need for him to be further interrogated, the DSS should only invite and question him between the hours of 9am and 6pm on work days.
The judge ordered the respondents – the DSS, its Director-General, Lawal Daura and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) – to release Dasuki upon meeting the bail conditions.
Justice Chukwu faulted the reasons given by the Federal Government for detaining Dasuki.
She said the state’s argument that the applicant was being held because of threat to national security and that he was being investigated for money laundering offences must not allow the violation of his right.
The judge said: “The respondents have not successfully justified the long and continued detention of the defendant.
“Based on the circumstances of this case and the established facts, the honourable court is of the humble, but firm opinion and as affirmed by superior authorities that the applicant (Dasuki) has made out a case to warrant the intervention of this court.
“The first and second respondents cannot impose custodial punishment on the applicant in the guise of investigating fresh issue of money laundering.”
The judge admonished state’s agents and agencies to always act within the confines of the law.
She said: “There is need to build a culture of accountability and respect for the rule of law and the constitution.
“This court is of the view that indeed such culture must be based on conviction on the part of the leadership, law enforcement agency, the judiciary, that democracy cannot function, if the respect for the constitution, rule of law and human rights is not upheld.”
On the respondents’ claim that Dasuki would constitute security threat if his liberty was restored, the judge said there was no evidence to support that claim.
The judge said there is nothing in Section 45 of the Constitution, relied on by the respondents, that allowed any law enforcement agency to restrict the right to personal liberty, granted a Nigerian citizen under Section 35 of the same Constitution.
She said: “Had the lawmakers’ intended to abrogate or restrict the right to liberty in that regard, they would have unequivocally stated so in Section 45 of the Constitution.
“Perhaps, the legislature has been of the view that the right to liberty can only be restricted as provided under Section 35(1)(c) of the Constitution…
“The allegation of money laundering relied on by the respondents does not ipso facto affect national security.
“The respondents also averred that the applicant was being held because of his failure to honour an invitation by an investigative agency.
“It is clear that the applicant has been in detention under the custody of the 1st and 2nd defendants (DSS and its DG) since December 29, 2015.
“Since the applicant has been made to honour the said invitation, why is he still in custody of the first and second respondents for about two and a half years?
“This query is also in view of the fact that the respondents have averred that they are not standing on the way of the applicant to actualise the bail granted him.
“The continued detention of the applicant by the respondents despite the bail granted to him by the courts in other matter is an aberration of the rule of law.”
Justice Ojukwu urged the respondents to direct their energy at ensuring the successful prosecution of the charges against Dasuki rather than detaining him endlessly.
She said: “What this court is saying in essence is that the respondents should focus on prosecuting the applicant and not on pyrrhic victory by holding him in an unlawful detention.
“When it comes to rule of law and Constitution, if the applicant is found culpable for the alleged offences, he should be visited with the full wrath of the law if he so deserves.
“The law remains that the burden of proving the illegality or the unconstitutionality of the fresh allegations is on the respondents.”
The judgment by Justice Ojukwu is coming over a year after a similar verdict by the Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The ECOWAS Court, in its judgment delivered on October 4, 2016 in Abuja, described Dasuki’s continued detention by agents of the Nigerian state as unlawful. It ordered his immediate release, a decision Nigeria was yet to comply with until the judgment by Justice Ojukwu yesterday.