I have two confessions that I want those who read this post to know before going on to read the rest of the article.
My first confession is that though I am a legal practitioner, this post is not meant to be any deep legal critique of Sambo Dasuki's on-going travails at the hands of the Federal government of Nigeria. It is merely a casual observation of what is going on in the country and what it could possibly portend for the future of this country.
My second confession is perhaps more serious than the first one and it is that I did not really have the time to go through most of the newspaper reports on the Sambo Dasuki case before writing this post. Yeah, I know, I know, but there it is...
Having read my confessions, you are at liberty to stop reading at this point. If however you decide to venture further into this write-up and you have a violent disagreement with my observations, drink a cup of cool water and remind yourself that you were warned.
For those who may not know who Sambo Dasuki is, he was the National Security Adviser under the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Sambo Dasuki was recently arraigned by the Federal government of Nigeria for illegal possession of firearms and money laundering. The presiding judge exercised his discretion and granted him bail on self-recognition at the time of the arraignment. However, ruling on Dasuki's application to travel out of the country for three weeks for medical reasons, the judge decided to vary his bail conditions by directing that he get a surety on certain terms and conditions.
The judge went on to rule in favour of granting Dasuki's application to travel out of the country for medical check-up. The Department of State Security (DSS) however seem to disagree with the judge's ruling since on the heels of the judge's directive that Dasuki's passport should be returned to him and he should be allowed to travel as requested, DSS officials relocated part of their office to Dasuki's neighbourhood and effectively put him under some form of house arrest.
The DSS claimed in justification of their seeming disobedience of the Court Order, that Dasuki had been invited to answer some questions before a panel on some other charges and he had refused or failed to honour the invitation. In their opinion, since the charges because of which they decided to set up camp around Dasuki's house did not relate to the ones already in Court, they were not flouting any Court Order.
It would be recalled that before Dasuki was arrested and arraigned on the illegal possession of firearms charge, there was also some sort of siege on his house by the DSS.
One of the complaints some people including yours truly, had against the immediate past government at the centre in Nigeria was the level of impunity and the geometric, if not astronomic rate at which it was growing. It is my opinion then that this government has to be extremely careful about the actions of its agencies and the messages those actions send both to those of us casual(?!) observers and to the global community.
First off, I'm not sure what information Dasuki put before the judge which prompted the judge to exercise his discretion in favour of allowing Dasuki to travel out of the country. For instance, is the medical reason so grave that Dasuki cannot receive adequate attention/treatment in any of the hospitals in the country?
It will also be important to know what information the prosecutors who opposed Dasuki's application to be allowed to travel out of the country put before the Court which the judge apparently did not consider weighty enough to warrant a refusal of Dasuki's prayer/request. It would for instance be pertinent whether the prosecution informed the Court that Dasuki is a flight risk especially considering the fact that he may already be aware of weightier charges coming against him.
The above questions are important because those of us who do not have all the information may make the mistake of condemning the judge while not realising that perhaps the fault in a Court's decision may lie with the prosecution. It is fairly common knowledge that prosecutions of high profile cases in this country are largely compromised at both the investigative level and in their actual prosecution in Court. This is not to completely absolve some judges of misdeeds however.
Assuming that in spite of whatever relevant and important information that the prosecution might have put before the Court, the Court nevertheless wrongly ruled in favour of Dasuki's travel abroad, I believe that the DSS, having conducted their investigations and gathered sufficient evidence against Dasuki should just have gone ahead to arrest him on the new charges. The siege tactic first employed by the NDLEA against Buruji Kashamu and now employed repeatedly by the DSS in which not just Dasuki, but other people in his neighbourhood are terrorised is in my opinion, not the best way to go.
This government has to let its agencies imbibe the culture of doing things the right way. If we make exceptions for particular persons perhaps because of the supposed gravity of the offence committed by those persons, we might in future have the problem of the exceptions being used for the wrong reasons against innocent people.
The DSS should stop the siege tactic and make arrests where they have sufficient information and evidence to prefer charges against those who violate the Law. Where government and its agencies give the impression that they can determine when the rule of law should prevail, we may all have to pay dearly for it.