Human rights lawyer and lead counsel to Omoyele Sowore, Mr. Femi Falana, (SAN), has said that the attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has the constitutional powers to release detained Omoyele Sowore from the Department of State Services (DSS), custody.
Falana who was responding to Malami’s statement which he issued yesterday, saying that he (Malami) had no control over the Sowore’s detention by the DSS.
However, Falana noted that since the attorney general had taken over the federal government case against Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, he’s also fully and solely responsible for any decision regarding the case.
His Statement reads in part, “With respect, Mr. Malami has not taken cognizance of the legal implications of taking over a pending criminal case in exercise of the powers of an Attorney-General under the common law and the Constitution. In the case of State v Ilori (1983) JELR 51804 (SC) the Supreme Court dwelt in extenso on the powers of an Attorney-General under section 193 of the 1979 Constitution which is in pari materia with section 174 of the 1999 Constitution. In that case Eso JSC of blessed memory said inter alia:
“An Attorney-General, who proposes to act under his powers to institute and undertake, take over and continue or discontinue criminal proceed¬ings would need to bear in mind public interest, interests of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process before he exercises his powers, since if he ignores any of these, he would run the risk of exposing himself to removal or reassignment by his appointor, and above all – and this is most important – also to public opinion…
The powers of the Attorney-General under s. 191, (and notwithstanding sub-section (3) thereof) are still a matter for his quasi-judicial discretion and one within his complete province. He still possesses the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him.”
Since Mr. Malami has taken over the case of FRN v Sowore v Another he is deemed to possess “the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him” Therefore, he cannot like Pontius Pilate wash of his hands with respect to the illegal detention of Sowore by the State Security Service.”