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Discordant tunes trail ECOWAS court’s judgment on Dasuki’s trial

By Joseph Onyekwere, Godwin Dunia (Lagos) and Oludare Richards (Abuja)
11 October 2016   |   3:41 am
The judgment by the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in which it declared as unlawful and arbitrary the arrest and detention of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki...
Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd)

Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd)

The judgment by the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in which it declared as unlawful and arbitrary the arrest and detention of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, has continued to generate reactions from lawyers.

Nigeria played a prominent role in the birth, growth and sustenance of the sub-regional bloc.

In his reaction to the declaration and award of N15 million in favour of Dasuki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Norrison Quakers, said the Federal Government may not obey the order going by the sensitivity of the applicant’s case and that ECOWAS lacks the machinery with which it can enforce such a verdict.

The SAN said that the only option available for the court to get its order enforced or implemented was through the local courts. He also noted that in a normal setting, the order still has to go through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

But another senior advocate, Mr. Olu Daramola, said: “The judgment is binding on the Federal Government as a signatory to the treaty establishing the ECOWAS court. And, therefore, it is not open to the government to ignore the judgment.”

He also put the blame of the current development on local courts and lawyers for failure to deploy the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts (ACJA) in handling the case.

A constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said: “It is a very good judgment because Nigeria is a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty and is also a signatory to the African Commission on Peoples and Human Rights Protocol. It is, therefore, clear that Nigeria is a part and parcel of the global village and whatever is happening here cannot be localised here alone.”

Although he acknowledged that ECOWAS has no physical enforcement procedure in terms of using the police and other security agencies, he noted that disobedience to the judgment would further put Nigeria in a very bad light.

According to him, Federal Government has been making itself a supra-national government that superintends over the rights of Nigerians which is supposed to be a function of the judiciary, for Dasuki to have been already granted bail by three consecutive courts in Nigeria but not released.

Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), however, believes there is no consequence for lack of compliance with the judgment.

According to him, even though the action of the Federal Government is condemnable by not subjecting him to trial and allowing the court to have its way on the matter, critics should take their time to read the protocol.

He said: “It has no binding effect on the government. The decision of the ECOWAS court is of a persuasive nature to member-countries. Member-countries have never surrendered their sovereignty or the authority of their regular courts to the ECOWAS court.

“In other words, ECOWAS court cannot sit as an appellate court or a review court over the decision of any Nigerian court. It cannot even sit as a review court over the decisions of a Magistrate’s Court in Nigeria. People have been attaching so much importance to the ECOWAS court as if its decision is of binding nature.”

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) said the ECOWAS Court’s declaration was a “fantastic one as it upholds the rule of law.”

According to him, the problem with regional and international tribunals is lack of enforcement.

On his part, another SAN, Ahmed Raji, has counseled the Federal Government on the need to comply with the judgment of the Community Court of Justice ECOWAS.

The Court had on Tuesday awarded a penalty of N15 million against the FG the release of former NSA, who has been in the custody of the federal government since December last year. Dasuki got reprieve from the regional court, which imposed the fine on the government for illegal and arbitrary detention of Dasuki.

Raji, who spoke with the media in Abuja, yesterday, said Nigeria as a respected member ofof the ECOWAS and the International Community is expected to honour its obligations to the protocols establishing the court by complying with its order.

The SAN stated that the spirit invoked in the acceptance of the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the disputed oil rich Bakassi Land must be rekindled in the decision of the ECOWAS Court.

He further explained that ECOWAS Court was not a domestic court, its sitting in Nigeria notwithstanding, adding that complying with the order of the court will further boost the confidence of the International Investors to invest in the country where the rule of law prevails.

Raji, however, warned that if the Federal government turned deaf ears to the verdict, foreign investors would be wary of doing business with the country not to talk of coming down to establish business ventures.

He said: “I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to facilitate immediate compliance with the ECOWAS Court decision. I am also appealing to the Presidential aides especially the Chief Law Officer of the Federation Mallam Abubakar Malami SAN and the heads of the intelligence units to advise the President properly”.

“The order of the court cannot be ridiculed and Nigeria, as a democratic nation, cannot afford to ridicule the court order in the interest of the corporate image of the country”.

The senior lawyer expressed happiness that the allegation of coup plot and waging war against Nigerians brought against Dasuki at the court by government to justify his unlawful detention was not sustained since he is not facing treason charge anywhere in the country.

Raji also said that the allegation of non purchase of arms and ammunition against Dasuki had not been substantiated because the records were there that several towns and local governments were liberated from the Boko Harram in the North Eastern part of the country during Dasuki’s tenure.

“Records are there that some of the ammunitions being used by the current government were parts of those ordered during the regime of the former NSA according to information he made available to his legal team”.

At any rate, the golden rule is that when matters are pending in court, they become subjudice and nobody is allowed to make comment in such a way that will suggest that the roles and functions of courts are being usurped.

In reply to a question put to him by newsmen, he said that the Dasuki’s legal team does not need to serve copies of the ECOWAS Court judgment on the federal government before the verdict can be obeyed since the government was adequately represented throughout the proceedings.

He added: “The fact is that lawyers standing for a party in a matter have duty to obtain copies of the court judgment and advise their clients accordingly”.

“In the case at hand, ECOWAS Court is not a court of first instance or intermediate court, it is only and final court and Nigeria must submit to the jurisdiction of the court.”