The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Friday that the release of Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, from detention by the Federal Government was based on compassionate grounds.
He also said in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Umar Gwandu, who quoted him as speaking to the BBC Hausa and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, that they were released because the government decided to comply with orders granting them bail.
Explaining why the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, were not released like Dasuki and Sowore, Malami said “the Federal Government does not interfere with the cases that are being prosecuted by a state government.”
El-Zakzaky and his wife are being prosecuted by the Kaduna State government on charges of murder.
Malami said the release of Sowore and Dasuki, which came after about four years of government disobeying at least five separate court orders granting bail to the ex-NSA, and two orders granting bail to Sowore in September and November 2019 was a demonstration of government’s commitment to rule of law.
He maintained that it was not due to any domestic or international pressure.
He 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.
“It is important to understand the fact that as far as the law is concerned and in relation to the Nigerian justice system, one has multiple options after a court has ruled on a matter.”
Gwandu’s statement in explaining the minister’s comments on Friday said, “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.”
It added, the multiple options government had in the aftermath of the court orders for the detainees’ bail, according to the minister “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”.
The statement added, “According to the minister, it was in line with the above provisions of the law that the Federal Government considered the relevant court orders in respect of these cases.
“He said 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.”
For about four years of detaining Dasuki, there was no appeal filed by the government against any of the five court orders granting him bail.
The government did not also file any appeal against the bail granted Sowore in September before his arraignment on charges of treasonable felony, among others, and in November after his arraignment on the charges.
The Department of State Services reluctantly released Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, on December 5, following a 24-hour ultimatum issued by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, but only for the operatives of the agency to invade the court the following day to rearrest the RevolutionNow’ protests convener.
The December 6, 2019 invasion of the court by the operatives of the court to rearrest the former presidential candidate had galvanised domestic and international condemnations of the culture of impunity, disregard for human rights, and violation of rule of law, believed to be major features of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The release came 13 days after PUNCH published a hard-hitting editorial criticising the human rights record of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and his government’s penchant for ignoring court orders.
The editorial had also informed the public of PUNCH’s decision to prefix the president’s name with his army rank as a military dictator in the 80s and to refer to his administration as a regime pending the time that the President and the regime would purge themselves of their contempt for the rule of law.
Six United States of American lawmakers also reportedly wrote Malami requesting the release of Sowore and adherence to rule of law by the government.
But Malami maintained on Friday that the two men were released not due to domestic and international pressure, specifically denying recieving any letter from the American lawmakers.
He noted that the government had the option of continuing to detain them while prosecuting appeals against the court orders granting them bail.
The statement by the minister’s spokesperson added, “Malami repudiated the claim that his office has received any formal communication from any American Senator on the matter and that the discusion during the visit of the American Ambassador to Nigeria at the event of the submision of letter of credende were not in any way connected to the accused persons.”
It quoted Malami as saying, “Even if we received any communication from them, that will never be the basis on the part of the Federal Government to obey or disobey court orders emanating from Nigeria.”
Malami was said to have said that each of the cases of Dasuki and Sowore were treated on their individual merit “and not in relation to one another or any other factors while describing as blatant falsehood the claims that Dasuki was detained for scoring certain primordial sentiments”.
The minister added, “The critical question that you may ask should be whether there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence or not. If there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence which deserved, as a matter of necessity, to be investigated through legal steps then there was no room for thinking of witch hunting an individual, scoring acrimonies or personal vendetta against anyone.”
He recalled that all individuals that were suspected of committing offences at various levels and at various times were charged to court with some granted bail based on the merits of their cases.
He added, “The time has now come for Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore to also enjoy bail based on the merit of their individual cases.They were charged based on their individual cases, taken to court, granted bail and now have been released. All the individuals involved were treated fairly and justly; they were taken to court, enjoyed the court’s favourable discretion and they were all released.”