Tobi Soniyi revisits the plight of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the former National Security Adviser to Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president, who by December would have spent two years in prison even though he has not been convicted of any offence
Except for relatives who still remember that one of their own is in solitary cell, not many Nigerians remember that Col. Sambo Dasuki, the erstwhile National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan is locked up in a cell at the Department of State Security.
When he was the NSA, Dasuki's house and office were like Mecca where people came to seek favour. Today, he is a lonely man. Visitors are few and far between.
A few years ago, that would have been unheard of. Then, Dasuki determined who should be locked up or should walk free. Then, Dasuki possessed the resources to make you an instant millionaire. The fact that he is locked up somewhere today is a reminder to those wielding powers of life and death, power to detain and to release, power to choose which courts orders to obey, that that power is transient.
Although charged with offences bordering on corruption, the federal government has left no one in doubt that his trial is political. All the offences against him are bailable. After leading not guilty, he was accordingly granted bails by three different high courts and the ECOWAS Community Court but the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has refused to obey the court orders. Even the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu who was charged with treasonable felony, an offence that is not ordinarily bailable was allowed to go on bail.
When the trial started, people said Dasuki was being punished for the role he played during the coup that ousted General Muhammadu Buhari from power. The Federal Government denied it. Even Dasuki himself reportedly issued a denial.
But how do you explain a situation where three courts ordered that Dasuki be released on bail and those in authorities wilfully disobeyed these orders? That certainly goes beyond the fight against corruption. It is simply executive lawlessness and vendetta.
Since 2015, when Dasuki was arraigned before different high courts, he has been granted bail by Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohhamed both of the Federal High Court as well as Justice Peter Affen and Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the Abuja High Court..
On the 4th October, 2016, ECOWAS Court declared the arrest and detention of Dasuki, as unlawful and arbitrary. The court also held that the further arrest of Dasuki by government after he had been granted bail by a court of law, amounted to a mockery of democracy and the rule of law. The court also ordered the federal government to release him immediately from the unlawful custody and imposed a fine of N15 million on the government. None of the orders was complied with.
Those following the trial have also watched helplessly as government agencies particularly, the DSS continue to frustrate the trial. The agency would either not produce him in court or would bring him late.
At one of the sittings, a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who represented Salisu Shuaib, a former Director of Finance in Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), charged alongside Dasuki accused government of frustrating the trial. He said it was irritating for government to have persistently and consistently refused to produce Dasuki in court to face trial even when the ex-NSA is the custody of DSS in flagrant disobedience of the bails granted him by several courts. That was the second time in a week that the DSS would fail to bring him to court and about the fifth time it would happen.
The senior counsel said that the defence of government that the inability to produce Dasuki in court for trial was an oversight was not acceptable and not tenable because the government having taken custody of Dasuki in spite of the bail granted him by four judges, ought to have be prepared to bring him to court to defend himself in the interest of justice.
He said: "I find it irritating for a prosecutor to say that the failure to produce a defendant in a criminal matter is an oversight. It is absurd and there is the need to keep record of day to day of the defendant in order to allow him to defend himself in the criminal charges brought against him.
"No one should foist a state of hopelessness on the court but I urge the court to order that those keeping Dasuki should ensure that they are alive to their responsibility of producing him at the next adjourned day."
Government has also ignored calls by well meaning Nigerians and organisations asking it to release Dasuki in line with orders of courts. The Nigerian Bar Association had called for his release but nobody heeded the call. The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN who is always ready to sacrifice human rights for the fight against corruption had surprisingly lent his voice to the call for Dasuki to be released.
Having exhausted all legal avenues to get his client released Dasuki's counsel, Ahmed Raji, SAN recently appealed to the president to release him on humanitarian ground and in the interest of justice.
Raji was apologetic on the detention of his client rather than being confrontational on the issue.
He also stated emphatically that he would not join issues with either the president or the government but would rather plead that on compassionate ground, Dasuki should be allowed to go on bail or at worse be placed under house arrest.
"I hold President Buhari in high esteem, I respect him in his private and official capacity, I have tremendous respect for him and I mean it. And my plea to him is to allow Dasuki to go on bail or at worst be placed under house arrest, be confined to his house.
"Whatever he might have done wrong in the past outside what we have been told I plead in the name of God that he should be forgiven. I am not confirming that he has done anything wrong but I plead that he be forgiven if at all he had done anything wrong in the past", he said.
He appealed to government to obey the court orders, adding that it is through the instrumentality of the same court that the fight against corruption would be prosecuted.
He stated that If the government continued to violate court orders, the consequences would be too great for the system.
"All over the world there is what is known as judicial review or administrative action but there is nothing like executive review of the judicial decision. The implication of disobedience of the four court orders is that there appears to be a concept of executive review of judicial actions on Dasuki which is abnormal.
"I will only humbly plead with the Federal Government to, in the interest of justice and sanctity of law and orderliness, to allow Dasuki to go on bail even if under house arrest.
"Col. Dasuki's problem is an internal affair of Nigeria, he has no other country. I will want the problem to be resolved within the context of the Nigerian affairs", he said.
The senior advocate admitted that the trial of Dasuki was beyond ordinary crime because it "has doses of politics which at the end of the day may have to be resolved in a manner that will accommodate the political aspect.
"It is in the light of the political doses involved that I am pleading that even if it is under house arrest, Dasuki should be released in the interest of justice", he added.
Dasuki was born on December 2, 1954 in Wusasa, Zaria, Kaduna State, to Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, the 18th Sultan of Sokoto. He is the first son of the deposed sultan. Dasuki attended Kaduna Capital School for his elementary education and later Government College, Kaduna, for his secondary education. He entered the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1972 and was coursemate with officers such as Colonel Kayode Are, General Owoye Andrew Azazi, and Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye. Dasuki received his commission from the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1974 and was posted to an Army Headquarters platoon.
Sambo Dasuki (then a Major) and military assistant to General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi participated in the 1983 Nigerian coup d'état that installed Major General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria's Head of State. Later, Dasuki was among four majors (Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Lawan Gwadabe, and Abdulmumini Aminu) who arrested the Nigerian head of state Muhammadu Buhari in the 1985 palace coup led by Major General Ibrahim Babangida. Following the coup, Dasuki was made Aide-de-camp (ADC) to General Ibrahim Babangida.
Dasuki was also a former managing director of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Limited (NSPMC). He resigned in protest from the NSPMC following its controversial privatisation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In early 2015, while serving as national security advisor, Dasuki informed the Independent National Electoral Commission "that operations against Boko Haram militants meant the military "will be unable to provide adequate security" for the upcoming 2015 Nigerian general election. The elections, scheduled for 15 February 2015, were postponed until March 28.
Also in April 2015, he insisted that the Nigerian military would ensure that Sambisa Forest, the last fortress of Boko Haram, would be liberated before the May 29 inauguration of President Buhari's new government.
Coincidentally, on the one year anniversary of the abduction of Chibok school girls, Dasuki insisted that government was concerned about the welfare of every single Nigerian not only the Chibok girls, as terrorists abducted other innocent Nigerian girls, boys, men, and women and security agencies were making all efforts to rescue them. The military rescued more than 300 abductees a few weeks afterwards.
On December 1, 2015, Dasuki was arrested by Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS) for allegedly stealing $2bn and accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets, and ammunition meant for the Nigeria's military campaign against Boko Haram Islamist militants.
The senior advocate admitted that the trial of Dasuki was beyond ordinary crime because it "has doses of politics which at the end of the day may have to be resolved in a manner that will accommodate the political aspect."