Human rights activist, Femi Falana, slammed the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar ,Malami, over the reasons sighted by him for releasing former National Security Adviser, Mr Sambo Dasuki, and founder of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omoyele Sowore.
In a letter addressed to Malami titled, “Re: Why we released Dasuki, Sowore – Malami”, released on Sunday, Falana said Malami lacked such power to proclaim the release of any detained defendant from custody on compassionate grounds.
Quoting section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Falana held that only the President and state governors were entitled to exercise the prerogative of mercy or release of convicted person on compassionate grounds.
This is as he added that since Sowore and Dasuki had been admitted to bail but detained by the State Security Service for alleged security reasons, there was no reason for the power of prerogative of mercy to be invoked.
He held that the Federal Government plunged itself into needless controversy in the Sowore and Dasuki cases by failing to comply to court orders or take steps to set aside, vary or stay the execution of the court orders.
In releasing Dasuki and Sowore from custody, Falana held that Malami should rather apologise to them in line accordance with section 32 (6) of the 1999 constitution, rather than “grandstanding or arrogant display of power.”
The letter read in parts, “in a press statement issued on December 24, 2019, you announced that you had directed the State Security Service to release Mr Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki from illegal custody. Both defendants have since been released on bail pending their trial. Apparently embarrassed by media reports that the release was occasioned by the pressure mounted on the Federal Government at home or abroad, the Presidency and your office have attempted to justify the highly contemptuous detention of Sowore and Dasuki for four months and four years respectively.
“Thus, while speaking to the BBC Hausa and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America last week you were reported by your spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu to have said that ‘the individuals concerned were released out of compassion and mercy as well as obedience to the rule of law and not because of any extraneous consideration maintaining that the Federal Government has the right to keep detaining the suspects while challenging the order admitting them to bail up to the apex court.’ You were also alleged to have said that the multiple options government in the circumstance ‘include the right to appeal the said ruling, the right to ask the same court that issued an order to vary or review the terms of the order as well as the right to request for stay of execution of the order pending the hearing and determination of an appeal in that matter.’
“In the interview, you also said that both Sowore and Dasuki were released on grounds of mercy and compassion. 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.
“In Solola v. State (2005) 11 NWLR (Part 937) 460 the Supreme Court held that a person convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a High Court and whose appeal is pending at an appellate court cannot be pardoned by the Head of state or Governor of a state pursuant to sections 175 and 212 of the 1999 Constitution until the appeal has been finally determined. It follows to reason that the power of prerogative of mercy cannot be invoked to justify the release of a person standing trial and who has been admitted to bail but detained illegally by the State Security Service for alleged security reasons.
“With respect, the Federal Government has itself to blame for the needless controversy that has trailed the release of the duo. In the case of Sowore, the State Security Service refused to comply with the order made by Justice Taiwo Taiwo for his release on bail. Even after the order of Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare had been reluctantly obeyed a gang of armed security operatives stormed the court to rearrest the former.
“In the process, he was brutalised in the courtroom while Justice Ojukwu was forced to rise due to the disruption of the proceedings of her court. The footages of the desecration of the court which was widely circulated in the social media exposed the Federal Government to unprecedented ridicule. Thus, despite the denial of involvement by the SSS in the show of shame you had to take over the case. However, 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.
“It is also on record that for about four years of detaining Col. Dasuki, the Federal Government did not take steps to set aside or vary or stay the execution of the five orders which had granted him bail. As if the contemptuous act of the SSS was not enough, you repeatedly maintained that the orders could not be obeyed on grounds of national security. In confirming your curious position the Presidency said last Friday that ‘the Attorney General of the Federation who is the chief law officer, as far as the government is concerned, has convinced everyone and the government inclusive that there is a basis for their continued detention because the individual right must not undermine the collective right.’
“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 an arrogant display of power.”
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