By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An Abuja High Court sitting at Jabi has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Nigerian Army, to forthwith, release Col. Nicholas Ashinze, a former aide to the erstwhile National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), who has been in detention since December 23, 2015.
In a judgment on Monday, Justice Yusuf Haliru, directed the respondents to immediately release the applicant on self-recognition, saying his detention for over three months without trial, was “illegal, wrongful, unlawful and constituted a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of the applicant”.
The court also ordered immediate release of documents and items the anti-graft agency seized from the house of the applicant.
Justice Haliru blasted both the EFCC and the Army which he said acted as if Nigeria was still under military dictatorship.
“The EFCC is a creation of the law. The court will not allow it to act as if it is above the law. It is remarkable to note that the motto of the EFCC is that nobody is above the law, yet they are acting as if they are above the law.
“The EFCC Act is not superior to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The respondents in this matter have not behaved as if we are in a civilised society. They have behaved as if we are in a military dictatorship where they arrest and release persons at will.
“The respondents, I must be bold to say- the EFCC and the Army- have behaved like illiterates”, the Judge added.
He said the constitution stipulated that any person so detained should be charged to court within reasonable time not exceeding two months from the date of arrest.
Justice Haliru stressed that under section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, an accused person is deemed innocent until his guilt is established.
“Why has the 1st respondent kept the applicant without bringing him to court? Why was the applicant, being a serving military officer who could be easily reached, not granted administrative bail? Or is it that the applicant has been found guilty and already serving his jail term?
“Nobody should be subjected to the whims and caprices of the EFCC. The essence of the rule of law and constitutional provisions is to ensure a just balance between the ruler and the ruled, between the powerful and the weak.
“Though the EFCC has the responsibility to investigate financial crime, it must however conduct its operations in accordance with the rule of law.
“The court is empowered to guard against improper use of power by any member of the society or agency, EFCC inclusive.
“The detention of the applicant, for all intent and purposes, is not just unfair but unfortunate”, the court held.