Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said on Sunday that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has embarrassed the executive arm of government and exposed the judiciary to ridicule with his comments after the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki from illegal custody.
Falana, who is Sowore’s lead defence counsel, said in a statement that the minister embarrassed his office by saying he directed the Department of State Service 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.
The senior lawyer maintained on Sunday 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, a former National Security Adviser, was released on the Christmas Eve of 2019 by the Department of State Service after about four years in custody and violation of series of court orders for his release.
Sowore, the Sahara Reporters publisher and convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ protests, was arrested on August 3, 2019 for allegedly planning to overthrow the regime of the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd). He 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 came as domestic and global outrage 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.
The PUNCH Editorial of December 11, 2019 titled Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand criticised Buhari’s regime penchant for flagrant disregard for the rule of law and fundamental human rights stating that “This regime’s actions and assaults on the courts, disobedience of court orders and arbitrary detention of citizens reflect its true character of the martial culture.”
Since the release of the duo, the AGF had issued press statements and appeared on television to deny that the two men were released as a result of domestic or international pressure.’
As he had previously stated, Malami 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.
Responding, Falana who argued that the Federal Government lacked the power to continue to detain suspects after being granted bail by the court, also pointed out the Federal Government never appealed against the court orders with respect to Sowore and Dasuki.
Falana stated, “Since the release of Sowore and Dasuki from illegal custody on December 24, 2019, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, 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.”
Falana quoted Malami as saying in an interview aired on NTA last Thursday that, “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.”
Responding to the minister’s statement, Falana said “the minister’s statement is factually and legally erroneous in every material particular”.
He added, “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.
“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 recognisance 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.”