Detention: Dasuki floors FG at ECOWAS Court
A former National Security Adviser, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, has triumphed at the Economic Community for West African States Court in the first leg of his action challenging his alleged unlawful arrest and detention without trial since December last year by the Federal Government.
Against the objection of government, the international court in Abuja on Tuesday ruled that it has jurisdiction to entertain the suit brought before it by Dasuki for the enforcement of his fundamental rights to liberty and to own property as enshrined in the provisions of the Nigerian constitution and African Charter on fundamental rights of persons.
In the ruling delivered by Justice Friday Chijoke Nwoke, the ECOWAS court dismissed outrightly the objection of the government against Dusuki’s suit on the ground that the objection was misconceived, frivolous and lacks merit.
Nwoke, in the unanimous ruling of the three-member panel of the court, held that the claim of government that Dasuki’s case emanated from his trial on certain offences was inappropriate and being the basis for its objection to the applicant’s case in this matter cannot hold water since the reliefs sought by Dasuki have nothing to do with the ongoing trial at the domestic courts of Nigeria.
The Justices in their opinion held that the claim of government that Dasuki ought to have filed contempt charge against the Nigerian government for disobeying court orders that admitted him to bail, but flouted by the defendant cannot be sustained because the case of the applicant is not ambiguous since it has no root from any criminal trial in any court.
Justice Nwoke said at any rate, the case of the Nigerian government cannot stand in the face of law because there is no evidence that Dasuki has filed similar pending matter in any international court and that even if he has a similar matter in any Nigerian court up to Supreme Court, such domestic court cannot have the status of an international court as envisaged in the treaty to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The court held: “In our opinion, what Dasuki brought before us as a case is an issue for the enforcement of his fundamental rights to liberty and own property and against unlawful arrest, unlawful detention and unlawful seizure of properties without any court order or warrant of arrest.
“From the totality of the issues brought before this court, it is clear and there is no ambiguity that the applicant is seeking enforcement of his right to freedom and not on the issue of his trial for any alleged offence before any Nigerian court.
“Therefore, the objection of the government and the request that the case of the applicant in this matter be struck out on the ground of emanating from any criminal matter has no basis, the claims and the request lack merit and hereby dismissed and we declare that the application of Dasuki is admissible to this court.”
The ECOWAS court said it was not out to decide the issue of whether the applicant is guilty of the charges against him in the Nigerian courts or not, but simply to ascertain whether his fundamental rights to liberty, having been granted bail in criminal matters and rearrested since last year and kept in an unknown place, constitute an abuse of his rights to freedom.
Dasuki, through his lawyers, Robert Emukpoeruo and Wale Balogun, had dragged the Federal Government before the ECOWAS court to complain that the invasion of his houses in Abuja, Kaduna and Sokoto without any court order or warrant of arrest and even seizure of his properties comprising vehicles, money and documents constituted the abuse of his rights to liberty as enshrined in sections 36 and 34 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria and other international laws to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Besides, he complained that the invasion of his house by operatives of government without a lawful court order traumatised his 94-year-old father, who was shocked and up till now has not recovered from the sickness that followed.
Dasuki therefore asked the ECOWAS court to award N500 million compensatory damages in his favour, having been denied access to medical attention abroad as ordered by a Nigerian court since November last year.
The government, through its lawyer, Tijani Gazali, had objected to Dasuki’s case on the ground that the ECOWAS Court has no jurisdiction to dabble into the trial of any Nigerian in the Nigerian court.
Gazali also asked the ECOWAS Court to strike out Dasuki’s case because it constituted an abuse to the Nigerian courts.
Meanwhile, definite hearing in the matter has been fixed for May 17 and 18, 2016.