Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Publisher of the Sahara Reporters and co-convener of RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore, walked out of the detention facility of the Department of State Services (DSS), last night following a Federal Government’s order.
Under the order announced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd) is also expected to be released after five years in detention.
This came barely 24-hours after hoodlums attacked pro-Sowore protesters and against the backdrop of criticism and pressure from human rights and the international communities.
The DSS had continued to detain Dasuki and Sowore against court orders for their release.
Malami said the decision to release them was in compliance with the bail granted the two by various courts
The statement read: “Whilst the Federal High Court has exercised its discretion in granting bail to the defendants in respect of the charges against them, I am also not unmindful of the right of the complainant/prosecution to appeal or further challenge the grant of bail by the court having regards to extant legal provisions, particularly Section 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“However, my office has chosen to comply with the court orders while considering the pursuit of its rights of appeal and/or review of the order relating to the bail as granted or varied by the courts.
“In line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and in compliance with the bail granted to Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) (as recently varied by the Court of Appeal) and the bail granted to Omoyele Sowore, I have directed the State Security Services to comply with the order granting bail to the Defendants and effect their release.
“The two defendants are enjoined to observe the terms of their bail and refrain from engaging in any act that is inimical to public peace and national security as well as their ongoing trial which will run its course in accordance with the laws of the land.
“I wish to reiterate again the utmost regard of my office for the entire judicial structure of Nigeria.
“This administration remains unrelenting in deepening the rule of law and the administration of justice in general.”
In their separate reactions, lawyers Ahmed Raji (SAN), Onyekachi Ubani, Joe Nwokedi, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and former president of Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazuruike commended President Buhari the decision, Prof. Chidi OdinKalu and spokesman of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Yinka Odumakin described it as “thankless.”
Raji said: “We thank God Almighty. We thank God Almighty. And we thank God Almighty.
“We thank the President of our country, the Attorney General of the federation, the entire Judiciary and all Nigerians. It is well with us. May God continue to be with all of us.”
Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has hailed President Moha said President Buhari’s intervention has once again confirmed that he is a stickler for due process and an apostle of the rule of law.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, Governor Fayemi described the President’s gesture, which came on the Christmas eve, as a good Christmas gift for the duo, their families and associates as well as a soothing balm for the country.
“Again, the President has demonstrated that he is the father of the nation through his intervention that led to the release from detention of the two prominent citizens.” He said.
Dr Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum said he was particularly happy that the two prominent citizens regained their freedom, while hearing in their cases continued. This, he said should be the norm.
“The President, by this intervention, has reinforced the fact that nobody is deemed guilty of an offence until pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“This is good for the country. We congratulate Col Dasuki and Sowore and salute the President for the fatherly gesture,” he said.
SERAP, in a statement by it deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, described it as a positive step.
“We hope that this signals a change in direction in Nigeria towards full respect for the rule of law, tolerance and greater openness by the government that would allow citizens to effectively enjoy their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms…We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Agba Jalingo and all those still detained on bogus charges, having spoken out in favour of greater democracy, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”
“The government cannot continue to pick and choose which court orders to obey. All court orders must be immediately and fully obeyed. It should never be right for the government to selectively obey court orders.”
Mr. Ubani said it was a cheering news but advised the executive to be consistent with obedience to court orders and rule of law. He said the argument that national security supersedes personal human rights could only be sustained if a court makes such pronouncement considering the peculiar circumstances of a case.
“Anything short of that puts Nigeria in bad light before the international community,” he said.
Joe Nwokedi, a lawyer, said: “This is a good move although it came so late. This has clearly showed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has deliberately decided to flagrantly disobey the orders of respective courts that granted bail to both defendants. This is quite sad to our democracy. A government shall not decide at what time they feel very comfortable to obey the orders of courts. It has to be automatic in as much as the person standing trial has fulfilled all his conditions of bail. Nevertheless, we thank them for this as they have decided to purge Nigeria of the continued national and international shame occasioned by their ignoble roles in the continued detention of the two persons above.”
According to Uwazuruike, “It is good news that the government of Nigeria has decided to obey court orders. Rule of law vs national security is a topic loved by dictatorial regimes. I hope sanity has returned to Nigeria. The US government should intervene more so that the remaining detainees can be set free.”
However, Odinkalu said the statement by Malami is a confirmation that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government considers itself “manifestly superior” and that he has no regards for the courts.
He said on his confirmed twitter handle, @ChidiOdinkalu, “The #BreakingNews here is that it is now official that the Attorney-General of the Federation on behalf of Gen @MBuhari is the Supreme Appellate judicial organ of government. We already have an acquiescent @nassnigeria. The concentration of powers is complete. Nigeria is ruled by a president who is manifestly superior to the courts & to whom court orders have no meaning – except orders that please him.”
On his part, Odumakin slam government for releasing Dasuki and Sowore “at their own time and according to their whims and caprices.”
“Are we talking about a court order that Dasuki should be released three years ago or the court order that Sowore should be released several weeks ago? Now the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice is now directing the release at their own time and according to their whims and caprices, thanks but no thanks. The rights of Nigerians on constitutional matters are enshrined in the constitution and they are not at the whims and pleasure of the government.”