Jokes for days. Pure jokes. Thats what youll want to regard the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ruling ordering the Nigerian State to set free former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki.
To make the joke even more of a rib cracking one, the ECOWAS court ruled that the Federal Government should pay N15m in damages to Dasuki.
To compensate a man who allegedly diverted $2.1bn earmarked for the purchase of ammunition with another N15m, is the stuff that stand up comedy shows are made of. It's akin to rewarding the Fox for storming through the barn door and making away with the Hen.
To placate a man with N15m for allegedly ending the lives of hundreds in the war thorn North East, is sick comedy.
Sometimes, these jokes write themselves. And ECOWAS' ruling should have been funny if it wasn't so tragic.
The ruling is premised on the alleged arrest of Dasuki by the State without a search warrant.
Online Newspaper Premium Times, reported the ruling this way:
"On Tuesday, a three-member panel led by Justice Friday Nwoke said Nigeria’s government was wrong in arresting Mr. Dasuki without a search warrant, adding that the pattern of arrest negates the provisions of Section 28 of the Nigerian Police Act.
"According to the said section, a superior police officer may authorise the search of a resident belonging to a suspect assumed to be in illegal possession of an item, if the officer so authorised has a search warrant....According to the judge, the search warrant presented before the ECOWAS court was not certified and therefore lacks verifiable authenticity...."
Dasuki is being held for a slew of offences including illegal possession of firearms, corruption and money laundering. To negate all of these alleged crimes and set him free on account of a flawed search warrant will amount to a travesty of justice.
In the past, the Department of State Security (DSS) had said it did have a valid search warrant with it before storming the home of the erstwhile NSA last year.
How ECOWAS will declare that search warrant "uncertified and inauthentic," should be the subject of another round of litigation and not a call for the outright freedom of the man.
It is also subject to debate if ECOWAS has the jurisdiction to rule in a case before Nigerian courts. Are we out-sourcing our judiciary now? Have we ceased being a sovereign state? Where does the jurisdiction of the Nigerian legal system end and that of ECOWAS begin?
There's precedence to draw from here:
In May, 2016, IPOB (Independent People of Biafra) leader Nnamdi Kanu, who is being held for secessionist threat and gun-running among other offences, ran to the ECOWAS court as well in a last ditch attempt to evade justice.
In its preliminary objection, the Federal Ministry of Justice, submitted that the sub-regional court lacked, “the requisite jurisdiction” to hear and determine the matter before it.
The government also averred that in running to the ECOWAS court before the domestic courts were given a chance at hearing the defendant's bail application, Kanu and his counsels were subjecting the Nigerian law to ridicule and abusing the processes of the court.
The government's objection had also read inter alia: “The corporate existence of Nigeria as a united, harmonious, indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation is certainly greater than any citizen’s liberty or right......once the security of the nation is in jeopardy...and it survives in pieces rather than in peace, an individual’s liberty or rights may not even exist.
“It is trite law that a court cannot assume jurisdiction over ancillary claims when it has no jurisdiction to entertain the main claim, since an ancillary claim can only be properly determined by that court. Thus, it is improper to approach a court which is incompetent to determine only some of the issues in a case if there is a court with jurisdiction to determine all the issues.”
We couldn't agree more.
Dasuki was brought before the court within the jurisdiction that is called Nigeria. Besides, a regional court like ECOWAS should only have jurisdiction over member states or communities. Last we checked, Dasuki is not an ECOWAS member State. He's a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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It was an abuse of court process by the Ex-NSA to have run to an ECOWAS court in the first instance, with his case before courts in Nigeria.
The prosecuting agencies--EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and DSS--should be made to answer before the laws of the land if they took Dasuki away without a valid search warrant. But to negate a case premised on much more than national security because of a search warrant, will be stretching the liberty of the law a bit too far.
The ECOWAS court should really mind its business and allow our courts to sort out Dasuki and the mess he left behind in the Nigerian military. No interference please!