The fundamental rights to personal liberty and privacy of the home of every Nigerian citizen are constitutionally guaranteed. 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 can be searched with a warrant duly signed by a Judge, Magistrate or Justice of the Peace. 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.”
Last Thursday, a team of State Security Service (SSS) officials, armed with a search warrant, attempted to execute the warrant on the private residence of Col. Sambo Dasuki Dasuki, in Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory. Convinced that he did not deserve to have his house searched Col Dasuki refused to allow the SSS officials access to his house for several hours. The search could not be conducted until the armed troops guiding the house were withdrawn by the Army Authorities. In his own narration of his contemptuous action, the former National Security Adviser admitted that :
“The SSS operatives came in two trucks with a search warrant from a Magistrate Court. The warrant gave them the power to search for ‘illegal weapons and any incriminating item.’ You can imagine what that is supposed to mean.
“I left office on Tuesday and they got the warrant on Wednesday and executed it by 6pm on Thursday.
“From 6pm on Thursday, throughout the night till about 6am this morning (Friday), they were searching my house looking for incriminating items.”
In a sharp reaction to Col Dasuki’s narration of what transpired in his residence the SSS has confirmed that the search was conducted in strict compliance with a search warrant duly endorsed by a Magistrate. To prove that the search was not a witch hunt the SSS listed the items recovered from the premises including seven high caliber rifles, (high assault weapons), several magazines and military related gears, 12 new vehicles, out of which five were bullet proofs. Since Col Dasuki is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved it is not fair to comment on the “incriminating items” found and recovered from his house.
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. Contrary to the misleading information circulated in the media by the former NSA, his house was not illegally raided but lawfully searched pursuant to a warrant issued by a Magistrate. Since we operate a neo-colonial 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 Col. Dasuki to him forthwith unless its seizure has been authorized by a court of law.