Dasuki’s Travails and the Rule of Law
It is indisputable fact that insecurity and corruption portend danger to the prosperity of any given nation. Every right thinking Nigerian, including this writer must support the government’s drive towards scratching off the shackles of insecurity and corruption.
However, as a minister in the temple of justice, it is imperative to state that flagrant violation of constitutional provisions which is the substratum of any egalitarian society poses the greatest challenge to the anti-insecurity and corruption wars. The crusade against these vices must be executed within the ambit of the law. To do otherwise will entrench the very antithesis of rule of law and fairness.
The former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki is currently undergoing criminal trial before a Federal High Court in Abuja for offences that bears organic link with insecurity and corruption. The ex-NSA has pleaded not guilty to the counts as contained in the charge. It is important to refresh our collective memory as to the chain of events that ensued between the Department of State Service (DSS) and Dasuki which culminated into the arraignment of the latter.
In July this year, many Nigerians felt aghast when the DSS explained why it raided the Abuja and Sokoto homes of Dasuki, less than 48 hours after handing over to the new NSA. The DSS said it launched the operation after obtaining “credible intelligence” linking Dasuki with alleged plans to commit treasonable felony against the Nigerian state.
The DSS therefore conducted a search on the property belonging to Dasuki. Based on the gravity of the allegation of ‘treasonable felony to undermine national security’ levied against Dasuki, one would have expected that items like nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and armoured tanks and the likes would be found in his home. It was however ridiculous to discover that items found in his home as a result of the search were according to the DSS “seven high caliber rifles, (high assault weapons) several magazines and military related gears”! The former National Security Adviser however refuted the allegation and gave a contrary narrative of how he was unjustifiably marooned by the DSS officials. Indeed it was a labyrinth of claims and counter claims.
During the fiasco, the DSS issued a statement and assured Nigerians that it would not trample on the freedom of individuals as enshrined and guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution. The DSS assurances were belied by the confiscation of Dasuki’s international passport by the operatives of the DSS (during the conduct of the search) without court order. The law is abundantly clear that the DSS lacks the power to unilaterally yank off the travelling passport of any Nigerian citizen. The Supreme Court in the case of DG of SSS v Olisa Agbakoba (1995) 3 N.W.L.R (Pt 595) 314, held that due process must be followed before the seizure of the passport of a Nigerian citizen.
The above is the first instance of the violation of Dasuki’s right by the DSS. The Nigerian constitution is predicated on the rule of law and therefore everything must be done according to the law. Similarly it also means individual or government activities should be conducted within the frame work of established rules and principles. The Supreme Court restated this in Igbe v Governor of Bendel State (1983) 1 S.C.N.L.R 73 at 91:
“It is the duty of every government to comply with the provisions of the constitution and to preserve, protect and defend it. To act contrary to the provisions of the constitution will not, if properly brought to the notice of this court, be condoned but such an act will invite proper sanctions.”
What this connotes is that state should be forbidden to take advantage over the helpless citizen.
While interrogating the high-falutin treasonable allegations levied against Dasuki by the DSS, there are barrage of fundamental posers that can be raised upon a cursory look into the five counts charge that was premised on his arraignment: why was charge bereft of any count bordering on treasonable felony? How come the “credible intelligence” of the DSS on Dasuki’s alleged plans to commit treasonable felony becomes meretricious and baseless to pass through a judicial scrutiny? Was the allegation a pure and deliberate subterfuge to stir public out-cry against Dasuki who under section 36 (5) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) is presumed innocent? Couldn’t this be a classical case of persecution? The answers lie in the future.
Recently, after securing the court’s permission to travel outside the country for medical attention, the State Security Officials besieged the residence of Dasuki. The State Security hinged its action on Dasuki’s alleged refusal to honour an invitation to appear before a committee undertaking the investigation of procurement processes relating to a $2 billion arm transaction by the previous administration under which Dasuki was the NSA. Dasuki however denied ever receiving any invitation letter by the committee.
Now, the law is clear in this circumstance beyond ambiguity. The DSS lacks the power to lay siege to Dasuki’s property or anybody’s property without court order. It is even unconstitutional to restrict the movement of visitors into Dasuki’s residence as doing so is a clear violation of the right to freedom of movement of the prospective visitors as enshrined and guaranteed under section 41 (1) of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria. Obviously, the DSS action which is bereft of any court order has wittingly or unwittingly rendered the Federal High Court ruling- permitting Dasuki to travel abroad for medical attention- nugatory. The provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 was not in any way complied with by the DSS in this circumstance. Section 115 of the ACJ Act 2015 have laid down the procedure to be followed in securing the attendance of anybody who is perceived to have committed any offence.
The above forms the crux of this piece so as to reiterate the need to comply with the provisions of the law while discharging any statutory duty. The Supreme Court held in the celebrated case of Governor of Lagos v Ojokwu (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt 18) 621 at 636:
“Nigeria being one of the countries in the world even in the third world which proclaims loudly to follow the rule of law, there is no room for the rule of self help by force to operate. Once a dispute has arisen between a person and the government or authority and the dispute has been brought before the court, thereby invoking the judicial powers of the state, IT IS THE DUTY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO ALLOW THE LAW TO TAKE ITS COURSE…THE COURT EXPECT UTMOST RESPECT OF THE LAW FROM THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF WHICH RULES BY THE LAW” (emphasis is mine)
It is important for the relevant authorities to know that many Nigerians are following with keen interest the trial of the former NSA. Therefore, anything short of justice and fairness with deference to the rule of law will not only be acceptable but also confirm the giant speculation that Dasuki is a victim of persecution.
Bar. Yunus Abdulsalam
Legal Practitioner Yunus Abdulsalam and Co, Abuja
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