A human rights activist and legal practitioner, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) has described the recent raid carried out by operatives of State Security Service (SSS) on the residence of the former national security adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, as lawful, stating that it was done with a warrant issued by a magistrate.
On the contrary, the SSS should return Dasuki’s passport to him forthwith unless its seizure has been authorized by a court of law.
But the eminent lawyer did not say whether the search warrant also conferred automatic power on the SSS agents to either arrest Dasuki without an arrest warrant or bar all his visitors, including his son, from visiting his residence.
Falana said in a statement in Lagos on Sunday that contrary to the misleading information circulated in the media by the former NSA, his house was not illegally raided but lawfully searched.
According to him, the fundamental rights to personal liberty and privacy of the home of every Nigerian citizen were constitutionally guaranteed.
He, however, stated that as fundamental rights are not absolute, they may be breached in accordance with a procedure permitted by law. Hence, by virtue of Section 146 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the residence of any citizen could be searched with a warrant duly signed by a judge, magistrate or justice of the peace.
The lawyer also pointed out that Section 149 thereof imposes a duty on any person residing in any building which is liable to be searched to allow free and unhindered access to it and afford all reasonable facilities for its search.
He said, “It is pertinent to point out that the law requires the owner or occupier of any house or apartment to allow a search once a search warrant signed by the appropriate authority is produced by law enforcement personnel.
“Without any legal basis whatsoever, Col. Dasuki breached the law when he refused to allow the SSS officials free and unhindered access to his residence for several hours last Thursday.
“Since we operate a neocolonial legal system which confers special privileges on people of influence, Col. Dasuki was treated with dignity in the circumstance. In other words, the SSS personnel would have executed the warrant, rather forcefully, if the search involves the home of an ordinary citizen.
‘’Indeed, the special status extended to members of the ruling class has also been demonstrated in the decision of the SSS to place the retired Colonel under “house arrest” in a country where the flotsam and the jetsam are regularly railroaded to jail even when they are not associated with any ‘incriminating evidence.’
‘’However, it was reported that Col Dasuki’s passport was seized during the search of his house.
‘’The SSS ought to be reminded of the case of the Director-General, State Security Service v Olisa Agbakoba (1995) 3 N.W.L.R. (Pt 595) 314, wherein the Supreme Court held that the passport of a Nigerian citizen could not be seized without due process.
‘’It would be recalled that the seizure of the passport of Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the current Emir of Kano) by the SSS under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration was declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Federal High Court.
‘’In addition to the order for the immediate release of the passport, the court awarded N50 million reparation to the then embattled Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Therefore, the SSS should return the passport of Dasuki to him forthwith unless its seizure has been authorized by a court of law.”