From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Justice Yusuf Haliru of a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) sitting in Jabi, yesterday, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately release Col. Nicholas Ashinze, former aide to the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), who has been in detention since December 23, 2015.
The court ordered the anti-graft agency to release Ashinze on self-recognition and also release documents and items seized from his house.
Haliru held that detaining Ashinze for over three months without trial was “illegal, wrongful, unlawful and constituted a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of the applicant.”
Berating the anti-graft agency and the Nigerian Army for acting as if Nigeria was still under the military dictatorship, the judge stated that the Constitution stipulated that any person detained should be charged to court within reasonable time, not exceeding two months from the date of arrest.
“The EFCC is a creation of the law. The court will not allow it to act as if it is above the law. It is remarkable to note that the motto of the EFCC is that nobody is above the law, yet, they are acting as if they are above the law.
“The EFCC Act is not superior to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The respondents in this matter have not behaved as if we are in a civilised society. They have behaved as if we are in a military dictatorship where they arrest and release persons at will…”
“The respondents, I must be bold to say- the EFCC and the Army- have behaved like illiterates.”
According to the judge, Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended says an accused person is deemed innocent until his guilt is established.
Respondents in the suit were the EFCC, the Chief of Army Staff and the Nigerian Army.
Ashinze through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), alleged that he had been in custody of the respondents for no verifiable reasons.
He urged the court to declare that his arrest and continued detention since December 23, 2015 “without being given any reason and without granting him administrative bail within 24 hours or 48 hours of his arrest and detention, is illegal, wrongful, unlawful and unconstitutional.”