Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has berated the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for claiming that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government released Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki out of mercy and compassion.
Malami had said that Sowore and Dasuki were not released due to pressure from foreign countries while speaking with the BBC Hausa and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America.
However, Falana in a letter to the AGF, slammed him for failing to release Sowore despite meeting the bail conditions by two different judges.
He added that the refusal to release a defendant admitted to bail by a trial judge is tantamount to contempt of court.
Falana maintained that the government was not permitted to refuse to comply with the order of bail under the pretext of defending the security of the nation, adding that even under the defunct military dictatorship, detaining authorities were not authorised to incarcerate any person for “security reasons” in defiance of court orders.
He wrote, “Indeed, the executive arm of government was not allowed by law to be the sole determinant of what constituted national security or state security.
“Honourable Minister, we concede that the government is entitled to appeal against the order of bail if it is dissatisfied with it.
“But in the cases of Sowore and Dasuki, the Federal Government did file an appeal against any of the orders in question. Hence, no application was filed for stay of execution of the orders.
“Assuming that the Federal Government had filed an appeal against the orders of bail, the mere filing of the appeal could not have constituted an order of stay of execution of the orders for bail.
“In Nigerian Army v Mowarin (1992) 2 NWLR (Pt 235) 345, the Court of Appeal has ruled that where government files an appeal against the order of a high court for the release of any person from custody, the order cannot be stayed pending the determination of the appeal because the liberty of a citizen cannot be put in abeyance.
“With respect, the Federal Government has itself to blame for the needless controversy that has trailed the release of the duo.
“In the case of Sowore, the State Security Service refused to comply with the order made by Justice Taiwo Taiwo for his release on bail. Even after the order of Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare had been reluctantly obeyed, a gang of armed security operatives stormed the court to rearrest the former.
“However, we were flabbergasted when you turned round to inform us that you had no power to direct the State Security Service to comply with the order of the Federal High Court for the release OF Sowore from custody.
“It is also on record that for about four years of detaining Col. Dasuki, the Federal Government did not take steps to set aside or vary or stay the execution of the five orders which had granted him bail.
“As if the contemptuous act of the SSS was not enough, you repeatedly maintained that the orders could not be obeyed on grounds of national security.
“But having belatedly deemed it fit to review your position and advise the Federal Government in line with the tenets of the rule of law, you ought to have apologised to both Sowore and Dasuki.
“That is what is expected of you in accordance with section 32 (6) of the 1999 constitution. It is not an occasion for grandstanding or arrogant display of power.”
SaharaReporters, New York