Prominent Senior Advocates of Nigeria, on Wednesday, condemned the Federal Government for the continued detention of the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shiites), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Different courts had ordered the release of the former NSA and the Shiite leader but the Federal Government has kept Dasuki and the fiery cleric men in detention without appealing the court rulings, ordering their release.
The SANs, who condemned the continued the detention of the duo, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, were Adegboyega Awomolo, Mike Ozekhome, Kunle Ogunba, Tunji Oyetubo, Sebastine Hon and Edward Ashiekaa
Dasuki is being tried for his roles in the alleged diversion of $2.1bn meant for the procurement of arms during the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
El-Zakzaky, on his own, is held in connection with the clash between his sect members and soldiers in Zaria in December 2015.
The Nigerian Bar Association and the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), had called on the Federal Government to obey court orders on the detention of Dasuki and El-Zakzaky.
While the NBA, through its President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), said the continued detention of Dasuki and El-Zakzaky was unjustifiable, Sagay, on Tuesday, called on the Federal Government to either free the suspects or appeal court rulings, ordering their release.
In his own reaction, Oyetibo condemned the Federal Government’s disobedience of the court orders to release Dasuki and El-Zakzaky, saying the government was “contemptuous.”
Oyetibo noted that the government, which professed to be democratic, needed to apologise to Nigerians for such defiance of court orders.
He said, “There is no debate as to whether the Federal Government should release Dasuki or El-Zakzaky or not. This is because a competent court of law has ordered that the release should be done.
“We all know that an essential ingredient of democracy is the adherence to the rule of law, which, in this case, has been flouted by the government.
“It is therefore contemptuous for the government to disobey court orders, particularly a government which professes to be democratic.
“I therefore say that the Federal Government should apologise to Nigerians and do the needful. There is no debate in this matter.”
Ogunba said the call by the NBA that the Federal Government should release Dasuki and El-Zakzaky was right.
He said their continued detention, when they had not been convicted, amounted to a violation of their fundamental rights.
Ogunba stated, “Well, I support the call for their release. As a government, you cannot be above the law. If that is the position of the court, the government cannot continue to detain them because the court is an independent arm of government and the Federal Government cannot override the court.
“The way our law is, they are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty; and since they have not been convicted yet, it is a violation of their right to continue to detain them.”
Ogunba, however, questioned the moral qualification of the NBA to call on the Federal Government to obey a court order, noting that the association’s executive had been sacked by a court judgment.
He described the continuation in office of the executive members as a defiance of the court judgment, saying the call by the NBA was “a right call coming from a wrong arbiter.”
“It is a case of kettle calling the pot black,” Ogunba added.
Awomolo urged Nigerians “to plead” with the Federal Government to obey court orders.
He also urged Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, to do the legal profession proud by ensuring the release of the two detainees as ordered by court.
He said, “Let us plead with the executive arm of government to respect the orders and judgments of court.
“The government has its reasons for continuing to hold on to them, but in the interest of democracy and the rule of law that we celebrate, the government should please, release them.”
Awomolo described the continued suspension of the judges without trial as “an undue interference with the independence of the judiciary”.
He said, “It is most unfair that somebody, who has dedicated himself to the judiciary that way, is being placed on suspension without any justification.
“The courts in Bayelsa State have been paralysed because the judges there (Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court) were accused of misconduct and they were never tried by the NJC. It is an undue interference in the independence of the judiciary.”
Ozekhome said he was happy that the NBA had finally woken up from its slumber to begin to defend the rights of citizens under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. He said the call for the release of Dasuki and El-Zakzaky was a call that the NBA ought to have made long ago.
Ozekhome stated, “I was once the President of the NBA. The NBA has been sleeping and watching the rights of Nigerians being trampled upon by this government without saying anything. I am surprised that they are finally waking up. But anyway, it is better late than never.
“This is something that I have been speaking against. I have written articles, I have written legal opinions and press releases about this issue. I am happy that even those, who are pro-government and endorsed the high-handedness of this government, are suddenly waking up.
“I am not agreeing with the NBA, rather it is the NBA that is now finally agreeing with me because this is something I have been talking about for over one year. They are just finally agreeing with me.”
Also, Hon backed the call by the NBA for the immediate release of Dasuki and El-Zakzaky.
Hon also backed the NBA’s call for the termination of the investigation of judges placed on suspension since October last year without any charges filed against them.
He said the government had no reason to continue to keep the suspects in detention in the face of court orders directing their release.
The senior advocate believed that it was punitive and undemocratic to continue to place judges on suspension as a result of an endless criminal investigation.
Hon said, “It is punitive and degrading to keep them in that state. We said we are practising democracy but this is not democracy, it is not good.
“I also go with those calling for the release of Col. Dasuki and El-Zakzaky.
“These are things that are giving the government a bad image. Courts have ordered their release; so, there is no reason keeping them in detention by the government.”
In his own reaction, Ashiekaa argued that the detention of Dasuki and the Shiite leader was a mockery of the rule of law.
The Benue-based based SAN stated, “When you incarcerate somebody and the court gives an order, and you still refuse to obey that order, it is a mockery of the rule of law, it is a mockery of justice.
Why are they doing that? Apart from the cases of El-Zakzaky and Dasuki, there may be many other cases that we don’t know about.
“That is the type of impunity that we are against. If a party goes to court and there is an order, which favours the government, it obeys it. But if it is against the government, the government disobeys it?
“No, that is not the type of democracy we are talking about.
“We are operating constitutionalism and we must obey the tenets of democracy and constitutional law. We have been consistent in these things, informing government, including the AGF who, being a political appointee, could have some problems.”