Ade Adesomoju and Oladimeji Ramon
The detained National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has written to the Federal High Court in Abuja where he is being prosecuted for charges of illegal possession of firearms and money laundering, requesting that he be allowed to stop submitting himself for trial.
The ex-NSA, who has been detained by the Department of State Service since December 29, 2015, based his request on the Federal Government’s continued refusal to comply with a series of court orders granting him bail.
He cited five court orders, including one by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which had ordered his release but were ignored by the Federal Government.
His letter dated November 12, 2018 was addressed to the Registrar of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The letter personally signed by Dasuki, was titled, ‘Unabated persecution of Col. Mohammed Sambo (retd.) by the Federal Government of Nigeria’.
He stated in the letter, “At this point, I strongly believe that there must be an end to this hypocrisy and lopsided/partisan rule of law.
“Since the Federal Government has resolved not to comply with judicial orders, directing my release, it is better for the court to also absolve me of the need to submit myself for further prosecution.”
Dasuki is being prosecuted for three sets of charges with two relating to his alleged diversion of funds meant for the purchase of arms, which is pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja, and the other set bordering on illegal possession of firearms and money laundering pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He narrated in his letter how he had at different times been granted bail by the courts but the Federal Government refused to comply with the orders.
He said as part of the efforts to regain his freedom, he filed applications in three different courts.
“These courts were, however, of the view that I should apply for the enforcement of my fundamental human rights, given the peculiar circumstances of the case,” Dasuki said.
He said his family was skeptical about filing such fundamental rights enforcement suit “given the high-handedness of the government and its resolve not to comply with any kind of order which admitted me to bail.”
The ex-NSA said his family’s skepticism was aggravated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment in a presidential media chat on December 30, 2015, saying he would not be released from custody “because of the weight of crimes allegedly committed by me.”
He noted that due to Buhari’s statement, he filed a fundamental rights enforcement at the ECOWAS Court and that on October 4, 2016, the court ordered his release and directed the Federal Government to pay him N15m as damages.
Dasuki added, “At this juncture, it will seem that the Nigerian government is not inclined to yield or obey the orders of law; whether domestic or international.
“Ironically, the Federal Government still wants to ride on judicial wings to prosecute me, when it does not comply with the orders that proceed from the court, especially in relations to me.”
Dasuki was absent from the resumed hearing before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.
The lawyer, who represented him during the proceedings, Mr Victor Okwudiri, brought his client’s letter to the attention of the presiding judge.
He claimed that the defence team was not aware of the letter personally signed by Dasuki until they got to court on Tuesday.
But the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), told the judge that Dasuki had informed operatives that he would not come to court since he had sent a letter to the court.
He described as an affront to the court, Dasuki’s decision not to appear in court but to write a letter instead.
He reminded the court that Dasuki had earlier on January 17 and April 10, 2018 refused to appear in court.
But, citing section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Okpeseyi urged the court to proceed with trial by asking the prosecution to call its witnesses to testify.
Okwudiri, however, opposed the application insisting that the provisions of Section 252(4) were not applicable since his client had not been allowed to enjoy the bail granted him by the court.
Justice Mohammed noted that he had in his ruling delivered on April 10, 2018, directed the prosecution to file an affidavit stating the facts whenever the defendant on his own decided not to appear in court.
He said the affidavit must be filed for him to be convinced that the defendant willfully stayed away from court.
He added that since the prosecution failed to file an affidavit in respect of similar occurrence on Tuesday, he would adjourn the matter to enable it to comply.
He then adjourned till November 19.
Asked whether Dasuki’s threat not to submit himself for trial was tantamount to rebellion against the law, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), said though he could understand Dasuki’s frustration, the threat to stay away from court would not help him.
Sagay said, “I think it is frustration but it doesn’t improve his position. I can understand his frustration; yes, it’s understandable but it doesn’t help him. At the end of the day, he should continue to apply to the court and who knows, the Federal Government might just respond positively to one of these others.”
Speaking in similar vein, Prof Fidelis Oditah (QC, SAN), said though the Federal Government had wronged Dasuki, there was no such law in the land that gave him the liberty to stay away from the court.
Oditah said, “I don’t think he’s at liberty to refuse to present himself for court hearing because the executive arm has not obeyed previous orders. I don’t see how he can do that.
“The government has wronged him but he cannot take the laws into his own hands by arrogating to himself the right which he doesn’t have.”
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), however, commended Dasuki for his threat, adding that the court should cooperate with him.
Falana said, “The decision of Col. Dasuki is commendable. The trial court should cooperate with him, so that the Federal Government can appreciate that the so-called national security is subject to the rule of law.
“The Federal Government is advised to release the defendant on bail and then apply for day-to-day trial.”
Also Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), called on the Federal Government to let Dasuki enjoy his bail since the offences he was charged with were bailable.
Awomolo said, “Mr Sambo Dasuki, as a Nigerian citizen, is entitled to all the rights and privileges that the constitution guarantees every Nigerian.
“What we are witnessing is a revolution against the rule of security and undefined national interest other than the rule of law.
“Let all Nigerians plead with the Federal Government to, on compassionate grounds and in the interest of our hard-earned but fledgling democracy, release Mr Dasuki (on bail).” _Punch