**Abaribe, Fayemi, Ekweremadu, SERAP, Ozekhome hail release order
**Urge Buhari to obey all other subsisting court orders
**PDP, CUPP knock Buhari, say disobedience of court orders hasn’t changed
**It’s damage control effort, says ex-CDHR president
By Henry Umoru, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Omeiza Ajayi, Joseph Erunke, Dirisu Yakubu & Luminous Jannamike
Detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and Convener of #RevolutionNow movement and owner of online media outlet, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, were, yesterday, released by the Department of State Security, DSS, following an earlier order by the Federal Government for them to be freed.
Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN, confirmed the development to Vanguard last night.
Raji who spoke to Vanguard on phone around 8 pm., yesterday, said: “Yes, he has been released and he is about to leave the place.”
Similarly, Sowore’s lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, who also confirmed to Vanguard the release of his client, said he (Sowore) has been released and he is in good health and high spirit.
Col. Dasuki has been in detention in the past four years over his alleged role in the $2.1 billion arms scandal while Sowore was picked up in on August 3, this year, two days to the scheduled August 5, #RevolutionNow protest, for allegedly plotting to stage a revolution.
Minister of Justice & Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, had earlier, yesterday, disclosed in a statement in Abuja, that the decision to release Sowere and Dasuki was in compliance with the bail granted the two by the court.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, have commended the release order, while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, berated President Muhammad Buhari for sitting on appeal over the orders of courts of competent jurisdiction in the country, with CUPP saying that the President had turned himself into Executive Supreme leader and apex judiciary head.
Malami’s statement read: “The office of the Attorney General of the Federation has reviewed the pending criminal charges against the duo of Col. Dasuki (retd) and Sowore.
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“Whilst the Federal High Court has exercised its discretion in granting bail to the defendants in respect of the charges against them, I am also not unmindful of the right of the complainant/prosecution to appeal or further challenge the grant of bail by the court having regards to extant legal provisions, particularly Section 169 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“However, my office has chosen to comply with the court orders while considering the pursuit of its rights of appeal and/or review of the order relating to the bail as granted or varied by the courts.
“In line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and in compliance with the bail granted to Col. Dasuki (retd) (as recently varied by the Court of Appeal) and the bail granted to Sowore, I have directed the State Security Services to comply with the order granting bail to the Defendants and effect their release.
“The two defendants are enjoined to observe the terms of their bail and refrain from engaging in any act that is inimical to public peace and national security as well as their ongoing trial which will run its course in accordance with the laws of the land.
“I wish to reiterate again the utmost regard of my office for the entire judicial structure of Nigeria. This administration remains unrelenting in deepening the rule of law and the administration of justice in general.”
Fayemi lauds Buhari over Dasuki, Sowore’s release
Governor Fayemi said President Buhari’s intervention has again confirmed that he is a stickler for due process and an apostle of the rule of law.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, Fayemi said: “Again, the President has demonstrated that he is the father of the nation through his intervention that led to the release from detention of the two prominent citizens.
“The President, by this intervention, has reinforced the fact that nobody is deemed guilty of an offence until pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is good for the country. We congratulate Col Dasuki and Sowore and salute the President for the fatherly gesture.”
Go the whole hog, obey all subsisting court orders, release others ― Abaribe
Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), has described the Federal Government’s order that Dasuki and Sowore be released as a step in the right direction.
In a statement, yesterday by his Media Adviser, Uche Awom, Abaribe who noted that the action of the government is the hallmark of a democratic society, however, asked the Federal Government to go the whole hog and obey all subsisting court orders by releasing other detainees granted bail.
According to the Minority Leader, though the release was encouraging, the Presidency must release other detainees facing a similar fate, like the Shi’ite cleric, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
His words: “The presidency must seize the momentum and release the rest, they must not be seen to be selective or acting on impulse. Again the Federal Government must now respect and adhere to the rule of law at all times.
“It is becoming obvious that the country may face certain isolation from the international community if the government continues to disregard valid court orders. We must respect all statutory institutions of government and pay greater attention to the principle of separation of powers. This is the way to go in a democracy.”
Presidency’s penchant for disobedience of court order has not changed ― PDP
The PDP in its reaction called on well-meaning Nigerians not to get carried away with Federal Government directive for the immediate release of Dasuki and Sowore.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said what the President Buhari-led government had succeeded in doing was to give itself up as a no respecter of the rule of law and court rulings.
He said: “What is exciting about the directive to release these people? Has this changed their penchant for disobedience of court orders and the rule of law? This government has shown to the world that it is only interested in doing things its own ways regardless of the place of law and democratic order.
“They felt the heat of national and international pressure, so, there was nothing more for them to do than to order their immediate release. Nigerians are not fooled by this and the government knows it,” he said.
It’s FG’s Christmas gift to Nigerians ― CAN
On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in a statement by its President, Revd Samson Ayokunle, described the gesture as Federal Government’s Christmas gift to Nigerians.
He said: “We are very happy with the decision of the Federal Government to release the duo of Dasuki and Sowore as mandated by the court. We appreciate the AGF and the Minister of Justice for his intervention and counsel.
“The action of the government is commendable and it is a new dawn for democracy.
“We will not cease to pray for President Buhari and his team for a successful tenure in office. Nigeria should be a pacesetter for the continent in everything good, being the giant of Africa in the abundance of human and material resources,” he added.
Release El-Zakzaky too ― Ozekhome
Another lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, in his reaction, said: “The order by the Federal Government through the AGF, Malami, for the immediate release of Colonel Dasuki, who has been in detention for about four years and Sowore, who has been detained since August 2019, is salutary for democracy, respect for fundamental rights of the citizens and observance of rule of law.
“I am happy the government has finally realized its faux pas and is seeing the same light which I saw since 2015 when I kicked against the illegal incarceration of Dasuki. It is never too late to take corrective measures and make amends.
“The government should add Elzakzaky to the list of detainees to be released, because the whole world, aside from government apologists and grovelers, see all of them as political prisoners. Respect for the rule of law and citizens’ fundamental rights constitute some of the key building blocks of democracy. Obedience to court orders, however, distasteful, constitute the irreducible minimum of a civilized nation.
“The government should build on this fresh air of freedom to stop tormenting Nigerians with maximum fear and subjugation, making them discuss in whispers and walking somnambulistically like Ayi Kwei Armah’s “The Living Dead”. I thank Mr President. I commend the AGF Malami, SAN, for this democratic gesture.”
Ekweremadu commends Malami’s Intervention
Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in a statement by his Media Aide, Uche Anichukwu, described Malami’s action as “the best public relations job for the President Muhammadu Buhari government in 2019, “noting that the move would go a long way in rebuilding the confidence of Nigerians and the international community in the nation’s democracy.
“Although we should never have travelled this road in the first place, the intervention of the AGF and the directive for the immediate release of Dasuki and Sowore come as a big relief for the nation’s democracy and will go a long way to restore confidence in the sanctity of the judiciary and its place as the last hope of the common man.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP, Taraba South), while reacting to the development said: “It is in their interest to do so.”
Release Jalingo, others ― SERAP
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “This is a positive step by the Nigerian government. We hope that this signals a change in direction in Nigeria towards full respect for the rule of law, tolerance and greater openness by the government that would allow citizens to effectively enjoy their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms.
“SERAP has consistently called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore, Olawale Bakare and other prisoners of conscience. The President Buhari government should now immediately withdraw all charges against Sowore and Bakare and all others detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They should never have been charged in the first place.
“We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Agba Jalingo and all those still detained on bogus charges, having spoken out in favour of greater democracy, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
“The government cannot continue to pick and choose which court orders to obey. All court orders must be immediately and fully obeyed. It should never be right for the government to selectively obey court orders. The government should have immediately obeyed court orders releasing Sowore, Dazuki and others on bail.
“The President Buhari government must cease the restrictions on the civic space, respect human rights, and immediately obey all outstanding court orders including at least four judgments obtained by SERAP. The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts involved.
“The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, ordered the immediate release of details of payments of billions of naira to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.
“The fourth judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris (as he then was), ordered President Buhari to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of padding and stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget. The court also ordered President Buhari to “direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.”
It’s damage control, says former CDHR president
Former President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwummadu, said: “My immediate reaction is that this is coming too late, too little in the sense that nothing precluded the same FG and AGF from directing the same releases soon after the express orders of courts. Recall that the orders sought to be obeyed now have been issued several months and weeks ago depending on the case.
“This is a damage control effort that has very little impact because of the profound damage that has been occasioned by the indiscretion of this government and the presently established tradition of disobedience of court orders.”
“The AGF cannot, at this stage of the mess, excuse himself from the absurdity and disgrace brought about by this ugly and avoidable development. By. S. 150 of the 1999 Constitution, he is the Chief Law officer of the Federation with a responsibility to advise the government on appropriate legal decisions and actions to take including respect for rule of law and court orders.
“Indeed, S, 287(1-3) of the 1999 Constitution imposes a peremptory obligation on every individual, governments and agencies of government to obey and enforce the judgments, orders and directives of Superior Courts of records including the Supreme Court subsection (1); Court of Appeal subsection (2) and Federal and States’ High Court subsection (3).
“This matter cannot stop at the tokenism of ordering his release. We want to see the disciplinary measures including the trials of all the heads of agencies that flouted the court orders as a clear demonstration that the FG wasn’t a party or privy to these despicable actions.
“Secondly, and as a preliminary step, those implicated should be relieved of their positions and thirdly, the FG, DSS and even Ministry of Justice must issue a public apology to the victims and pay adequate compensation to them pursuant to S.35(6) of the 1999 Constitution. Finally, every other political prisoner including Agba Jalingo and Abiri illegally held in captivity must be released and compensated forthwith.”
Release without apology, an insult ― CUPP
On its part, CUPP has President Buhari’s order that Dasuki and Sowore, be released without apology as an insult to Nigerians.
The coalition, in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochiyere, said, “The order for the release is an indictment and a useless order that has no place in constitutional governance.”
The statement entitled “President Buhari orders for the release of Dasuki and Sowore without an apology: A huge insult to Nigerians,” CUPP told the president, “You deserve impeachment, not commendation for ordering the release of Sowore and Dasuki after ignoring valid court orders for the release and presenting Nigeria as a lawless monkey-like Republic where the rule of law is dead.”
This came as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, condemned Monday’s clash between those it referred to as its supporters and those it described as members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, in Abuja.
APC in a statement by its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said: “Our attention has been drawn to a clash between members of the PDP and people believed to be pro-APC exercising their respective rights to protest at the Nigeria Human Rights Commission, NHRC, head office in Abuja on Monday.
“This incident stands condemned by our party. As the governing party, we recognize the inalienable rights of people, groups, including political parties to gather or carry out protest by themselves or through proxies within the ambit of the laws. We do not subscribe to a situation where such protests become chaotic or different protesting groups turn on one another, causing avoidable injuries. Such is clearly unacceptable to our laws and it is against the principled stance of our government.”