Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government to immediately release the detained former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), after declaring his continued detention as illegal and unconstitutional. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu made the order yesterday in her judgement in the N5 billion fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against the Federal Government by Dasuki.

While getting fresh bail to the embattled former NSA, to the tune of N200 million, with two sureties, the judge held that the Federal Government failed to justify why it has kept Dasuki in detention for over two and half years. The court also dismissed the claim by the Federal Government that the ex-NSA was being detained for the sake of national security and over the alleged role he played in the illegal diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms to fight against Boko Haram terrorists.

According to Justice Ojukwu, “the allegation of money laundering does not ipso facto affect national security.”

She further declared the continued detention of the ex-NSA in disobedience to orders of various trial courts, as “an aberration of the rule of law.”

The court held that government’s action amounted to gross violation of Dasuki’s fundamental right to liberty. Consequently, Justice Ojukwu granted Dasuki bail at N200 million with two sureties, who must be either a civil servant of Grade Level 16 in the Federal Civil Service or private citizens, with landed properties in the municipal areas of the Federal Capital Territory. Alternatively, the court ordered that the sureties could be private citizens that own landed properties within the Abuja metropolis. The court said such persons must tender evidence that they paid tax in the past three years as well as submit their recent passport photographs and title deed of the landed properties.

In addition, either the private sureties or the applicant must deposit the sum of N100 million into the litigation account of the court, with the sum returned upon conclusion of the trial of the ex-NSA.

After reviewing the arguments canvassed in the suit by both counsel as well as documentary evidence placed before it, the court held that the allegation of money laundering does not ipso facto affect national security.

The court also held that, “the period of detention of the applicant has become unreasonable.”
It lashed out at the Federal Government for relying on purported ongoing investigation to perpetually detain the ex-NSA, despite various court orders that granted him bail.

The judge said Nigeria could not wish to be regarded as other democratic nations when its government continues to shun the legal architecture, saying: “Democracy cannot function if respect for the rule of law is still tottering on one leg.”

The court equally held that the burden of proving the legality of the detention of an accused person was on the detaining agency. Justice Ojukwu held that Dasuki’s likelihood of jumping bail was shortcircuited by the fact that all his travel documents were previously seized by the trial courts.