Lawyers have expressed displeasure at the manner in which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) have gone about handling the case involving former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) in a $2.1bn arms procurement contract while in office.
The displeasure stems from first, DSS operatives month-long siege on the former NSA’s Asokoro, Abuja FCT residence after he was indicted by the Presidential Arms Procurement Probe Panel to have spent $2.1bn on arms importation, arguing that a person is perceived innocent until a court of jurisdiction pronounces otherwise.
The retired colonel is also alleged to have been in possession of firearms and money, for which he is standing trial.
His continued detention by DSS following his arrest on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, and now the EFCC is another source of angst for the lawyers, who criticised the institutions of being the government of the day’s attack dog and as “tools to settle political scores”.
In the words of the legal minds ENCOMIUM Weekly engaged on the unfolding drama…
‘The rule of law must not be sacrificed on the altar of media trial’’-JOHN ITODO
Anybody found culpable of stealing or looting our treasury by whatever guise should be made to face the music. After all, nobody is above the law, irrespective of that person’s position or status.
In doing this, however, the rule of law must prevail. It must not be sacrificed on the altar of media trial or an attempt to ‘please or show the masses’ what fighting corruption is. Personal liberty is a constitutional right that is preserved by the provision of Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The liberty of persons can only be interrupted or curtailed in the manner provided in the said Section 35, anything contrary to it is unconstitutional and illegal.
For the sake of clarity, Section 35 of the Constitution provides inter alia:
“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty, save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty;
By reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law; for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the order of court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence…”
From above, it is clear that the continuous detention of Colonel Dasuki (rtd.), and Chief Raymond Dokpesi and any other person related to the allegation without a valid order of court to that effect is unconstitutional and should be abated forthwith. The fact that a person is termed or labelled ‘criminal’ by the masses does not erode his constitutional rights, even condemned prisoners have rights under our laws, that is why the government cannot say because a person is condemned to death, the prison authorities should stop feeding him/her before the date fixed for his/her actual execution or cause him to lay outside in a windy winter night or feed a condemned prisoner to the lion, or decapitate him/her or roast him/her or fry him or her in a drum of hot boiling oil; he or she must be put to death in the manner prescribed by law or a law court. Anything short of that is a breach of his right.
The last part of the above cited provision of our Constitution seems to suggest that a person can be detained for the purpose of bringing him before a court and may seem to justify the continuous detention of Dasuki et al; however, it is provided that a person accused of an offence, arrested and detained must be brought to court within a reasonable time which for all intent and purposes is 48 hours maximum, thus, it is expected that before an arrest is made, thorough investigations should have been conducted and completed, and once there is an arrest (which is the interruption of his constitutional rights to personal liberty), the person should be immediately charged to court.
Our laws do not envisage or provide for a situation where you arrest and detain a person, and thereafter commence investigation into the alleged crime while the person is already detained in custody.
Arrest and detention for the purposes stated in Section 35 of the constitution is chiefly to produce an accused in court. Even where an arrest is made, while investigation is ongoing, the person ought to be admitted to bail immediately, that is what civilised climes do; Alison-Madueke’s historic London arrest is a classic on this point. She was arrested, and before we back here in Nigeria could come out of the frenzy, she had been admitted to bail and released. If that arrest was made in Nigeria, she would probably still be in detention today or the courts would have slammed impossible bail conditions on her that will effectively keep her in detention even though she has been admitted to bail.
I think it is high time Nigeria started getting it right in the administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria. Even the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is still a far cry from being called ‘beautiful’ but it is at least a right step in the right direction.
Colonel Sambo Dasuki et al from what I read on the pages of newspapers may be facing multiple charges of stealing, conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, amongst others.
‘What we are experiencing is merely trial on the pages of newspapers’ – DEJI FASUSI
There is a presumption of innocence as far as the individuals that have been arrested are concerned. And until they go the length of the full trial and the court pronounces them as such, we cannot and should not pronounce them guilty on the pages of newspapers.
I don’t really share the sentiments of Nigerians who say that EFCC is living up to its responsibilities, I think they are selective.
The siege on his residence is not justifiable under any law. The right to privacy, ownership of property and movement are constitutional rights. A siege on someone’s residence without an order of court is merely an affront on your constitutional right. I expect the EFCC to carry out their duties within the ambit of the law. It looks to me like a political probe.
The EFCC is supposed to be an independent organisation. Until we get to that point, we’re going nowhere. All our institutions will continue to be tools for political mischief, used to settle political scores. Which is why, to be honest, I’m not convinced by all these.”