The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, declared the continued detention of former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd, as illegal, even as it ordered the Federal Government to release him forthwith.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, held that FG failed to justify why it has kept Dasuki in custody of the Department of State Service, DSS, for over two and half years.
Justice Ojukwu dismissed FG’s claim that the ex-NSA was being detained for the sake of national security and over alleged role he played in the illegal diversion of $2.1billion meant for the purchase of arms to fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
“The allegation of money laundering does not ipso facto affect the national security”, Justice Ojukwu held, declaring the protracted detention of the ex-NSA since December 29, 2015, in disobedience to orders of various trial courts, as “an aberration of the rule of law”.
The court held that FG’s action amounted to gross violation of Dasuki’s fundamental right to liberty, adding that “the period of detention of the Applicant has become unreasonable”.
It lambasted FG for relying on purported ongoing investigation to perpetually retain the ex-NSA in custody despite various court orders that gave him bail.
Justice Ojukwu said Nigeria could not wish to be seen like other democratic nations when its government continues to shun the legal architecture, saying “democracy cannot function if respect for the rule of law is still tottering on one leg”.
The court held that the burden of proving the legility of the detention of an accused person was on the detaining agency.
It held that Dasuki’s likelihood of jumping bail was shortcircuted by the fact that all his travelling documents were previously seized by the trial courts.
Besides, Justice Ojukwu dismissed FG’s contention that the fundamental right enforcement suit the detained ex-NSA lodged before the court amounted to “forum shopping”.
The court noted the FG had in its own affidavit, claimed that Dasuki’s detention was based on fresh allegations not connected with matters for which he was previously granted bail.
It held that the instant case by Dasuki was distinct as it was based on his continued illegal detention without trial.
Consequently, Justice Ojukwu granted fresh bail to the ex-NSA to the tune of N200million with two sureties in like sum.
The court held that the sureties must be Civil Servants not below grade level 16, who are resident in the Federal Capital Territory.
The sureties are to swear affidavit of means, tender their appointment letter and last letter of promotion.
Alternatively, the court ordered that the sureties could be private citizens that own landed properties within the Abuja metropolis.
It said such persons must tender evidence that they paid tax in the past three years, as well as submit their recent passport photographs and title deed of the landed properties.
More so, the court held that either the private sureties, or the Applicant, must deposit the sum of N100m into the litigation account of the court, with the sum returned upon conclusion of the trial of the ex-NSA.
Aside directing the ex-NSA to surrender his international passport to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court, Justice Ojukwu stressed that Dasuki should not be arrested or detained beyond 6pm anyday he is wanted for interrogation.
According to the court, when the conditions are perfected, “the Applicant should be released forthwith”.
The court however declined to order FG to pay damages to the Applicant.
Dasuki who served as NSA under former President Goodluck Jonathan, has been in detention since December 29, 2015, when he was re-arrested by operatives of the DSS shortly after he perfected all the bail conditions that were stipulated by three trial courts.
He was initially arrested on November 3, 2015 and docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on charges bordering on money laundering and his alleged illegal possession of arms and ammunitions.
The ECOWAS Court had in a judgment on October 4, 2016, ordered FG to immediately release him from detention, an order FG had since refused to comply with.
FG had insisted both before the ECOWAS Court and in opposition to the instant suit, that it would be “extremely dangerous” to release Dasuki who it said constituted a threat to national security.
It said Dasuki was kept on protective custody for his own safety in view of the calibre of political figures it said were implicated in the $2.1billion arms probe.
It argued that an individual’s rights to freedom assumes secondary place whenever national security was threatened.
FG which was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata, maintained that Dasuki’s detention was justified, based on intelligence and security reports at the disposal of security agencies in the country.
It told the court that Dasuki has the capacity to employ mercenaries to wage war against the Nigerian state, saying his action by illegally diverting funds meant for the purchase of arms, exercabated activities of the Boko Haram sect.
FG insisted that condition precedent for the invocation of section 45 of the 1999 Constitution, to allow continued detention of the ex-NSA, was activated, contending that no court has the power to stop security agencies from doing their work.
Dasuki had the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/263/2018, prayed the court to compel FG to pay him N5billion as damages and compensation for gross violation of his fundamental rights.
Cited as Respondents in the suit were the Director-General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura, the DSS itself, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami.