Few days ago,
ECOWAS Court ruled that the former National Security Adviser to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Colonel Sambo Dasuki who has been in detention since last year over his involvement in arms procurement scam and other financial matters should be released. The court also ordered that he should be paid N15 million damages for infringement on his fundamental human rights.
But is the Federal Government likely to comply with the judgement? Our correspondent, Calista Ezeaku sought the opinion of some Port Harcourt residents on the burning issue. Our photographer, Ken Nwinune, captured their images.
Mr Stephen Nwilenee -Accountant
I think the judgement is a good one. We are supposed to be in a government that believes in the rule of law. So, if the ECOWAS court says they should release Dasuki, I think they should release him because like they said, the country is infringing on his rights. They should release him and if there is anything incriminating against him, then he should be re-arrested properly. I heard that the ECOWAS court said he was not arrested properly. It’s not that he doesn’t have a case to answer. He has a case to answer but due process was not followed and so, he should be released and the infringement benefit paid to him because his right was trampled upon. He deserves it.
I will advice the government to always follow due process in all their dealings. We are not in a military regime. We are in a democratic setting and for that, we must follow due process to get what we want.
Incidentally, going by the reputation the present federal government has of not obeying court orders, I don’t see the government obeying the judgment. Many people believe President Buhari is just victimising Dasuki because when he was toppled, it was Dasuki that arrested him. Now he is dealing with Dasuki.
But I think the President should forget about whatever personal grudges he has against Dasuki in this particular mater. He should follow the rule of law, release him, if the court finds him guilty, he can go ahead to prosecute him.
Mr. John Apologun -Business Man.
I think ECOWAS court is superior to Nigeria court and Nigeria is a member of ECOWAS. So if the decision is that he should be released and damages paid to him regarding his detention, that means that detention is illegal. And I think the national authority should comply with that judgment because Nigeria is a democratic country and democracy is about the rule of law. So if a competent court (ECOWAS Court)gives judgment, they should obey the judgement.
What ECOWAS Court treated is not really the crime. It is the detention. The detention is illegal. So it doesn’t mean that when government releases him, the issue of the stolen money will be forgotten. Government can release him and still sue him to prove his case. No court has found him guilty of the offense. It is an allegation and the allegation might be true or false. When you are a public office holder, you handle a lot of responsibilities under your care and when something goes wrong they say it is the leader that caused it. If you go to the details about this matter, he may not even be the one that stole the money. There were several offices he coordinated but because they said money was stolen by him, they can take him to court and have him tried. Let the lawyers prove whether the allegation is right or wrong. But detening him till now is illegal.
So I will advice the Federal Government to obey the Court judgement and release Dasuki then try him for all the offences traceable to him in Nigeria. This Dasuki’s case should also teach every Nigerian to change. It is not the day you do something wrong that the result will come out. Dasuki never knew things like this would happen when he was in office. So, we are learning from that, when you are given a position of authority, you should exercise it fairly and transparently and be accountable for your actions. We know there are political tones behind all this but we cannot say the allegation is right or wrong until the court establishes that.
Mrs Joy Iboroma -Business Woman
For me the judgement was fair because there is no way you can detain somebody perpetually especially when it has not been established that the person committed the offence you accuse him of. If you ask me, Dasuki did what he did according to the demands of his office as the National Security Adviser to the President. So he should be released and the N15m paid to him.
I think our government should learn from this case to stop intimidation innocent citizens. We are all one Nigeria irrespective of our political divides. Those in authority should try as much as possible to uphold justice.
Divine Chinyere Hezekiah -Business Women
If the man has not done anything wrong, they should release him. I believe the ECOWAS Court is made up of experienced, unbiased judges and if after going through the case they said Dasuki should be released, then he should be released and his compensation given to him. The question now is did he actually embezzle that huge amount of money? If he did, then he should face the law.
So I will advice President Buhari to ensure that the ECOWAS judgment is complied with. He should not act out of hatred or vendetta. My Bible says we should forgive. So Buhari should try and forgive Dasuki of whatever pain he caused him personally and release him. We should learn not to punish people when they did nothing wrong. Our law should not be a respecter of anybody. What is good for the geese should also be good for the gander.
Barr. Emeka Onyeka -Legal Practitioner.
Well the judgment is direct, clear and precise. Under the enabling law- the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, there are limits to which you can restrict the liberty of every citizen. There are circumstances and situations where an individual can be held down for a long period but the law requires whatever level of government to take steps to present the person before a competent court of jurisdiction to deal with whatever criminal offence the person may have committed. If there is any violation longer than what the law has provided, of course it gives such a person the right to ask for damages.
In this particular case, I will say there are some violations. First and foremost, he’s been there since last year. There has been a very long time. There is no way or whatever investigation one may have want to take that wouldn’t have been completed by now. And of course I’m aware that there is one Federal High Court judge who gave an order that he should be released forthwith. Till date he has not been released, he is still kept in detention. That is further violation of his right and a very serious offence in the face of our law, particularly from a government that gives an impression that it is there to uphold the rule of law. It is a total aberration and that must be condemned in all seriousness. So I’m sure it is based on the premise that the ECOWAS Court is saying that he is entitled to some damages.
Some will argue that ECOWAS Court does not have the teeth to bite, they don’t have such coercive influence but Nigeria is a party to ECOWAS Community of States. She is also a signatory to the law enabling the ECOWAS judiciary and of course the seat is in Nigeria. So Nigeria cannot play ignorance of their existence.
So, what it presupposes is that they are aware they exist. They are aware of the constitutional and multi-lateral strength of the court to give judicial pronouncements.
So, yes to a large extent, ECOWAS Court has the right to decide judicial issues that touch on the rights of the citizens of West Africa against their national states. And the country is obliged to obey their decision but what ECOWAS court lacks is the coercive power to have it enforced. That’s just the problem, moreso when Nigeria is the major donor in almost all the ECOWAS activities. It may be very difficult for the court to say more than they have just said.
Natural Nigeria should obey that judgment. Whether or not the Attorney General of the Federation who is the chief law officer of the nation should do the right thing is left entirely for him. We had cases in the past were former Attorney General of the Federation will say he needs sometime to digest the decision of the Supreme Court and that gets us worried. How can an attorney general sit in the comfort of his chambers, review the decision of justices of the Supreme Court? And as in this case, how can the Attorney General of the Federation sit in the comfort of his chambers to review the decision of the justices of the ECOWAS? That is an aberration. It’s unheard of and it is an insult, a gross one for that matter, to the judiciary.
For me, I think the very humble thing to do is to advice the federal government to do the right thing.
Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the ECOWAS judgement but if a court gives a direction and says “forthwith”, it means immediately. But in most cases if there are no immediate order with regards to the action being carried out forthwith, it is expected that the decision of the court should take place within forty days. So I will expect that the federal government will comply with the order of the ruling of the court within the very immediate time.
As a country and a citizens, the lesson derivable from this case is for us to know that there is rule of law. The fact that you are in government doesn’t give you the super power to infringe on the right of the citizens. It has also given an open for us to know that there is opporutunity for us to seek for redress if our rights are trampled on. If we are unable to get that from our domiciled courts, we can go beyond national courts and go to the multi-national courts and obtain justice. So it is a good thing both for the country and the citizens because it serves as a watchdog. If the judiciary of the state lacks the gut to do the right thing, there is some one, somewhere, acting as a bigger brother to come to their aid. So it is good.