DSS, Dasuki and the Rule of Law


By Inibehe Effiong

On November 3, 2015 Hon. Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja granted leave to former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) to travel to London for three weeks for medical treatment. The immediate past NSA is standing trial at the Federal High Court on charges of illegal possession of firearms and money laundering.
The Department of State Services (DSS) in response to the permission granted the accused person by the trial court invaded his home and prevented him from travelling out of the country as ordered by the court on the excuse that there are fresh allegations of crime against him.
On Friday November 13, 2015 the learned trial judge insisted that Dasuki be allowed to seek medical treatment in London and also summoned the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to appear before it on Monday 16th November, 2015 to explain why the order of the court granting leave to Col. Dasuki has been violated by the federal government. According to a report in the Vanguard Newspaper, Justice Ademola in summoning the AGF declared:
“Court orders must be obeyed. What is wrong in the defendant travelling and coming back to face trial?”
“Only a fit person can stand for trial and investigation. My own orders will not be flouted,” he added.
While it is true that the DSS has the statutory vires (power) to investigate and prosecute crimes, such power must be exercised conscientiously within the enabling legal framework. The DSS should not carryout its function in a manner that smacks of sheer impunity or derogates from the dictates of the Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law.
Irrespective of the gravity of the charges preferred against Col. Dasuki, no matter the nature of the fresh allegations levelled against him by the DSS, he is presumed innocent by Section 36 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) until he is proved guilty.
The Supreme Court in the landmark case of Director of SSS v. Olisa Abgakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt.595) 340 deprecated the DSS for violating the right of a citizen to freedom of movement. Granted that Section 41 (2) (a) of the Constitution gives allowance to the security agencies to restrict the movement of any person on grounds of reasonable suspicion of commission of crime, it is my humble view that that allowance cannot avail the DSS in this instance since there is a positive and subsisting order of a court of competent jurisdiction granting leave to Dasuki to travel out of the country for medical treatment.
The essence of bail is for the accused person to be available to stand his trial and defend himself as only the living can stand trial. By law, bail is entirely a matter of discretion of the court. It was the court that granted Dasuki bail on the condition that he should deposit his international passport with the court and should not travel out of the country without the permission of the court. If the same court that granted him bail on that condition decides, as it did, to allow him travel abroad for medical treatment the DSS ought not to be discomfited in the circumstance.
The Supreme Court in the celebrated case of Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) All N.L.R 233 emphasised the need for the government to abide by court orders and respect the dictates of the Rule of Law as against the rule of force. The DSS by its action is trying to frustrate the order of the court granting leave to Dasuki to travel out of the country for medical treatment.
Such action in the lucid words of the late courageous jurist, Kayode Eso, JSC (as he then was) in the Ojukwu’s case cited supra amounts to “an attempt to infuse timidity into the court and operate a sabotage of the cherished rule of law”. Such attempt must be uncompromisingly resisted. If the courts could resist such attempt as it did in the Ojukwu’s case during the military era, there is clearly no reason why the order of a court should be scandalized and treated with levity under the present democratic dispensation.
Even if there are fresh tenable charges or allegations of crime against Dasuki, I am not persuaded that excusing him for three weeks for him to attend to his health will occasion hardship, injustice or irreparable damage to whatever actions the DSS intends to take against him. On the contrary, the DSS can effectively utilise the period of his absence to carryout further investigation into the fresh allegations and confront him with its findings upon his return to Nigeria. There is no apparent urgency to warrant inference with the positive order of the court.
The DSS and the country does not stand to lose anything if Dasuki travels abroad. The worst that can happen is for him to jump bail and refuse to return to Nigeria upon the expiration of the three weeks period granted him by the court. In such eventuality, there are ample provisions under the international legal system that could be employed to force him back to Nigeria.
Under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty entered into between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, any suspect can be extradited to either country upon request. Even if Dasuki were to escape from London to any other part of the globe, the International Police (Interpol) can track and bring him back to Nigeria to face and stand trial. The point here is that the DSS has absolutely nothing to fear.
The federal government should not by its action give room to avoidable insinuations that Dasuki is being persecuted or “witch-hunted” because of certain political considerations. Politics should never regulate the government’s attitude towards court orders.
Admittedly, Dasuki may have played a significant but distasteful role in the destruction of the country by the former administration of Goodluck Jonathan. However, it is important for the government to follow the due process of law in its quest to hold him accountable for his actions and inactions during his tenure as the NSA in the last administration.
The government should not resort to crude and dictatorial tactics in seeking justice. Jonathan’s administration may have been lawless. The Buhari’s administration was birthed with a solemn promise of change and rule of law. As such, the law should prevail in this case.
Inibehe Effiong is a Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD). He can be reached on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Poisonous Ponmo now in Ogun, Commissioner raises alarm


The state commissioner for Agriculture, Ronke Sokefun raised alarm, while addressing stakeholders and ‘Ponmo’ sellers in her office in Abeokuta, over the discovery of poisonous cattle hide and skin otherwise known as ‘Ponmo’ in some markets in the state, warning the people against its consumption.

She said some unscrupulous businessmen were taking advantage of the gap in demand and supply of the soup ingredient popularly called ‘Ponmo’ to sell industrial ‘Ponmo’ laden with tanning chemicals to the unsuspecting public.

She explained how the toxic ‘Ponmo’ otherwise known as ‘imported ‘Ponmo’ can easily be identified in the market; it is often brownish black, foul smelling, abnormally thick with layers and ridiculously cheap  compared to the certified ‘Ponmo’, she said.

To all you lovers of ponmo, you have been warned!

The truth that cannot be told


By Michael Ovienmhada
IT has been eight months since Buhari won the election on March 28th, 2015 and Nigerians are anxious for the future. In these months, I tried hard to restrain myself from making any comments about the administration as I believed that they deserved time to get things going. Now, I am impatient as it would appear that this administration, constrained by campaign promises is afraid to confront the reality of what we face today. Can they tell us the truth? The truth is that we cannot continue to maintain the subsidy regime of petroleum products. At the heart of the subsidy is the Petroleum Equalization Fund Management Board Act of 1975 which states that Petroleum products must sell for the same price everywhere across the country. Without this law, there would be no discussion of subsidy. It is my contention that this law has outlived its usefulness if it was ever useful at all.
Essentially, all that the law succeeded in doing was to create a class of very, very rich people in this country who fed off of a law that was inherently defective because it was the child of ‘centralization thinking.’ Whilst I am a firm supporter of Federal Character in our national life because of the diversity of our country, I also believe that price control in the guise of Federal Character is doing damage to our ability to build infrastructure. It is 2015 and we need to think differently. It is time to set the Oil and Gas industry free. A paradigm shift in thinking is needed right now at the highest policy level. We must start to think of Petroleum the same way we think of tomatoes—–just another commodity. If the Federal government is not running the Tomato business by having a Tomato equalization law, I posit that they have no business running the Oil business either.
Any housewife will tell you how in some seasons, a basket of tomatoes could be as cheap as NGN 2000 whilst in other seasons, it could be as high as NGN 12000. These are the realities of a market driven economy.
Oil, like anything else cannot be granted immunity from market forces to the detriment of everything else and to the advantage of the few rich who continue to feed fat on this deficient law. It is common knowledge that petrol has not sold at the government controlled price in Borno or any border state for 40 years since this law was passed. The only set of people who have benefitted from this law are the Oil companies, the Oil tanker drivers who specialize in diverting product and get a slap on the wrist, and the Petrol station owners in these border states. As loyal as I believe I am as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if I owned a petrol station in a border state and I had a father Christmas who was generous enough to be sending me petroleum product free of transportation costs, my loyalty would be tested when the product is selling for four times the price at which I am getting it just across the border. If I restrain myself from this perfidy against my nation, how can I restrain the fellow down the road from bringing 300 jerry cans to fill up in my station to sell across the border for huge profit?
Sorry, I forgot! We do have the Customs officers whose duty it is to stop the illegal exportation of the product. The Customs officer has to be a Saint not to want to be part of this government largesse and in his mind, this is not corruption. This is business. In one day, he makes his salary for a year just by co-operating with the ‘smugglers.’ We ask too much of our citizens when we hand them the incentive to do the wrong thing.
It is also a known fact that Lagos constitutes at least 60% of the Nigerian economy. It would be safe to assume therefore that 60% of the cars and generator users in Nigeria are also in Lagos. If these facts hold true, then it must also be true that 60% of subsidy on petroleum products is subsidizing Lagos. Due to the fact that Labor Unions are focused on Oil in a way that they are not focused on Tomatoes, attempts to increase petroleum prices have always met with stiff resistance. It is my position that no serious attempt has been made by leadership in this country to explain why the situation is what it is because everyone has been feeding off of this bad law for forty years and so they pay lip service to it. The Federal government has no business running a business, has no business setting prices and therefore has no business increasing prices. Period! Does this government have the courage to do the right thing? Can they send someone who can talk to go round the country and talk? We cannot build schools, we cannot build roads, we cannot build hospitals, we cannot build modern airports, we cannot provide welfare services for the poor and aged in our population, we cannot feed our hungry and we cannot get 11 million children who are currently out of school to go to school because we have no schools for them for as long as we are bleeding money everyday just to preserve a few rich people.
To put things in perspective, Oil marketers came out with a press statement last week that they are being owed NGN470 billion for Oil subsidy. At today’s prices, this amount can build 2000 new secondary schools or 470 brand new state of the art hospitals and if you wanted to build roads, Wit can build five brand new roads, the length of Lagos—Ibadan Expressway or if you wanted to build an airport, you could build 20 new airports the size and standard of Terminal 5 at Heathrow. If you wanted to build a Power plant, you could generate 2,000MW of electricity or else, if you wanted to make Nigeria self sufficient in food production, you could sensibly target it to farmers across the country to help them cultivate more land for rice and wheat and save the country $11 billion in importation of these two items forever and another $4 billion used in importing sugar every year.
When we think like this, then, we can directly affect the standard of living of the people at every level and begin the serious fight against corruption by eliminating rent seeking from bad policies. The penchant for stealing as a new national culture would begin to disappear gradually when the man or woman at the desk sees no need to steal money to send their child to a Kindergarten school that is as expensive as a University. These are the real issues at the heart of our national culture of corruption and until bad laws are expunged from our books, there is no government in this country that will succeed in building the kind of infrastructure that we need to compete in this century where our mates have already left us behind.