Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said on Sunday the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), ought to apologise to Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for their belated release from illegal detention.
Falana said this in an open letter he addressed to Malami.
The lawyer letter was in response to the minister’s claim that both Sowore and Dasuki were released from custody out of mercy and on compassionate grounds.
Sowore, the #RevolutionNow convener, who was arrested in August for allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was released from the custody of the Department of State Services on Christmas Eve, after being detained for over four months in violation of the bail twice granted him by the Federal High Court.
Dasuki was also released the same day after four years of being detained by the DSS in violation of five court orders for his release.
Malami, who was on Friday quoted by his spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu, to have spoken to the BBC Hausa and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, denied that the release of the two men was in response to domestic and international pressure.
The minister had said, “The only reasons for the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki revolved around our commitment to the rule of law, obedience to court orders and compassionate grounds.”
But reacting to the minister’s claim on Sunday, Falana who is Sowore’s lead counsel, argued that under the Nigerian law, a detaining authority had no justifiable reason to continue to hold on to a suspect who had been granted bail by the court.
The letter read in part, “We were flabbergasted when you turned round to inform us that you had no power to direct the State Security Service to comply with the order of the Federal High Court for the release Sowore from custody.
“But having belatedly deemed it fit to review your position and advise the Federal Government in line with the tenets of the rule of law you ought to have apologised to both Sowore and Dasuki.
“That is what is expected of you in accordance with Section 32 (6) of the 1999 Constitution. It is not an occasion for grandstanding or arrogant display of power.”
Falana maintained that no authority had the power to detain a suspect for more than 48 hours without the backing of a court order.
He said, “It is submitted, without any fear of contradiction, that under the current human rights regime no authority has the power to detain any person beyond 48 hours in any part of Nigeria without a court order.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the government is not permitted to refuse to comply with the order of bail under the pretext of defending the security of the nation.
“Even under the defunct military dictatorship, detaining authorities were not authorised to incarcerate any person for ‘security reasons’ in defiance of court orders.”
He also dismissed Malami’s contention that the two men were released on compassionate grounds.
He said by law, Malami lacked the power to release a detainee in exercise of prerogative of mercy that was exclusively that of the President or a governor.
He stated, “With profound respect, you have no power to release any detained defendant from custody on compassionate grounds. As you are no doubt aware, only the President and state governors are entitled to exercise the prerogative of mercy or release any convicted person on compassionate grounds by virtue of Section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”