The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday granted bail to the immediate-past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), from the custody of the Department of State Services, where he had been detained for two and a half years.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who granted bail to Dasuki in the sum of N200m with two sureties in like sum, ruled that “the long and continued detention” of the applicant since December 29, 2015, could not be justified.
She 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 judge, who saw the continued detention as imposing a “custodial punishment” on the applicant when he had yet to be convicted, said, “the period of detention has become unreasonable in the circumstance.”
She added, “The 1st and 2nd respondents, (the DSS and its Director-General, Mr. Lawal Daura), cannot impose custodial punishment on the applicant in the guise of investigating a fresh issue of money laundering.”
She also told the three respondents – DSS, Daura and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) – to focus on prosecuting Dasuki based on the “fresh” case of money laundering they claimed to have against him instead of sticking to a “pyrrhic victory” of holding him in unlawful detention.
She said, “What this court is saying, in essence, is that the respondents should focus on prosecuting the applicant and not on the pyrrhic victory of holding him in an unlawful detention.
“When it comes to the rule of law and the 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.”
Although the judge rejected Dasuki’s prayer for a public apology and an award of N5bn compensation, she rejected all the grounds canvassed by the three respondents to justify the ex-NSA’s continued detention.
Delivering her judgment, Justice Ojukwu described the detention as “an aberration of the rule of law,” insisting that none of the reasons given by the respondents could serve as justification for the long detention.
On the allegation that Dasuki would constitute a threat to national security, the judge said the fresh money laundering case which the respondents claimed to have against him would not affect national security.
She added there was nothing in section 45 of the 1999 Constitution relied on by the respondents that allowed any law enforcement agency to restrict the right to personal liberty granted a person under section 35 of the same constitution.
Faulting the continued detention of the applicant despite the bail granted him by the various trial courts, she said, “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 1st and 2nd 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.”
The judgment came about one year and nine months after the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice in Abuja, in its own verdict delivered on October 4, 2016, ordered his unconditional release from illegal custody but which the DSS did not obey.
Upholding the applicant’s case on Monday, Justice Ojukwu dismissed the allegation of “forum shopping” that is, filing multiple actions on the same subject matter in different courts, levelled against Dasuki by the respondents.
She said Dasuki was justified to file the fresh suit, the respondent having said they were holding him in respect of fresh allegations.
The judge then ruled, “The continued detention of the applicant, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), by the operatives of the 1st respondent (DSS) under the instructions of the 2nd respondent (the DG) since December 29, 2015, till date without granting him an administrative bail is a violation of his fundamental right to liberty under section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.”
Apart from granting bail to the applicant in the sum of N200m with two sureties in like sum, the judge also attached other bail conditions including, that the sureties must be residents of Abuja.
She said the sureties could be civil servants not less than Grade Level 16 in the employment of the Federal Government or private citizens not employed by the government.
If the sureties are Federal Government employees, they will deposit the certified copies of their letters of appointment and last promotion letters with the court, the judge said.
But the judge said if they were private citizens not employed by the Federal Government, they must own properties in the Abuja metropolis and must submit the original title documents to the registry of the court.
Such sureties are also to submit to the court, their evidence of tax payments for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The judge also ordered that either of one of two sureties to be presented or Dasuki himself, should pay the sum of N100m to the court’s account which could only be taken back after the completion of the case against him, to guarantee the bail.
While the court ordered that Dasuki’s passport must remain in the custody of the court, it also ordered bailiffs to verify the addresses of the sureties.
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