The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) yesterday insisted that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was constitutionally right in detaining former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, despite several court orders that they be released on bail pending trial.
Speaking on a live TV program, Malami stated that the Federal Government, in its discretion, could challenge any court order it found uncomfortable within the ambit of the constitution. He asserted that a decision passed by a judicial system could either be complied with wholeheartedly or reverts to the rule of law by way of establishing rights that are accorded to the government.
The AGF said: “When a decision is passed, or a judgment or an order is delivered by the court, you have an option – which is absolute and unconditional compliance; secondly, challenge the order by way of either an appeal against the order or having the order reviewed. In respect of those orders we feel as a government that we are not comfortable with, we go back to the court and have them challenged.”
When asked if this was what happened in the case of Dasuki and Sowore, Malami said: “There were applications for setting aside orders; there were appeals for stay of execution all through. So, until those matters reach the Supreme Court and it takes the final decision relating therein, you are still operating within the ambit and context of rule of law.”
He added it was a misconception that all court orders must be obeyed immediately. The minister went on: “Perhaps I need to clear the air on how the rule of law operates within the context of the Nigerian constitution. We have multiple and a plethora of judicial decisions that establish a fact that when you are challenging a court order through a judicial process that handed the court order, the idea of disobedience to that court order does not arise.
“The misapprehension that set into the system and deliberately put in the public space is the fact that once there is a court order, you must unconditionally comply. You can only be adjudged being in disobedience of a court order when you don’t take advantage of the constitutional powers, rights and privileges accorded to you by appealing against the orders and, perhaps, seeking for stay of execution of the order or, perhaps, you don’t take any steps seeking variation of the court order.
“In the case of Sowore and Dasuki, there were applications for setting aside, there were appeals, and there were application for stay of execution all through. Until those matters reached the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court takes a final decision, you are still operating within the context of the rule of law. It is important to understand clearly how the rule of law operates within the context of the Nigeria situation, within the ambit of our constitutional law and ambit of out statutory provisions.”
However, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the minister to ensure the immediate release of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zeinat.