The immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said, he deliberately disobeys some court orders in the interest of the public.
Malami said this while responding to a question by the Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe, at the ongoing ministerial screening.
The senior advocate was asked why he decides to disobey court orders by refusing to release persons who have been granted bail by competent courts of jurisdiction.
In his reaction, however, Malami said his duty to protect the overall rights of Nigerians overrides the need to respect individual liberties.
The former AGF said indeed Sections 36, 37 and 39 demand the respect for individual liberty but argued that such rights are not absolute.
He subsequently cited a Supreme Court ruling on the Federal Republic of Nigeria VS Asari Dokubo.
The former AGF said, “I concede that I have a responsibility as AGF to protect individual rights but looking at the provisions of Section 174 of the constitution, I want to state further that the Office of the AGF is meant to protect public interest and where the individual interests conflicts with the public interest of 180 million Nigerians that are interested in having this country integrated must naturally prevail and I think that position has been stated by the apex court in the case of Asari Dokubo Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria that when an individual interest conflicts with public interest, the public interest will naturally prevail.”
Malami’s response, however, did not go down well with a section of the Senate that insisted that the constitution remains supreme.
In Malami’s defence, however, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who also hails from Malami’s home state of Kebbi, said the former AGF had answered the questions brilliantly and asked that he allowed to “take a bow”.
Na’Allah argued that other former ministers of President Muhammadu Buhari had not been grilled for up to an hour before and yet Malami was being treated unfairly.
The Senate President, who agreed with Na’Allah, said Malami had answered the questions brilliantly and should be asked to go.
He subsequently asked the former AGF to take a bow after putting the question to a voice vote.
The AGF has come under serious rebuke by several rights groups both locally and internationally for his failure to obey court orders.
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky; as well as a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), are some of the persons who have remained in custody for over three years despite being granted bail by courts.
Incidentally, Malami’s position corresponds with that of President Muhammadu Buhari who said at the Nigerian Bar Association conference last year that rule of law can be suspended for the sake of national security.