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Anti-graft war: Buhari, Falana, disrespecting court; Constitution protects crime suspects


Anti-graft war: Buhari, Falana, disrespecting court; Constitution protects crime suspects 

Writer, and social critic, Odimegwu Onwumere, has taken on President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, and human rights lawyer Femi Falana, saying the president and the lawyer have been acting in breach of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, in the prosecution of the anti corruption war.

AT different fora, President Muhammadu Buhari and a prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said treasury looters and corrupt persons facing charges before the court do not deserve bail.

Falana made his statement as the keynote speaker on Thursday, March 31 2016, while delivering a paper titled “Rule of Law and Treatment of Politically-exposed Corruption Cases” delivered on his behalf by Mr. Wahab Shittu at the seminar on anti-corruption war summoned by the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Lagos.

He also made a case of the creation of special courts to enable Buhari end this war well before the 2019 elections. 

In one of his presidential media chats, Buhari said government was not prepared to release from detention the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Director of the Europe Based Radio Biafra Mr. Nnamdi Kanu for alleged treason, and former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, a retired Army Colonel, who is facing corruption charges 

The Punch of April 1, 2016, however captured Falana this way, “Since victims of grand corruption including armed robbery and kidnap suspects are not usually admitted to bail, those who are charged with looting the treasury should no longer be granted bail.”

Same day Daily Post, quoted Buhari as saying, “Dasuki, who is presently in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), has multiple cases in court, which he must diligently face and answer. Nnamdi Kanu has committed a serious offence and therefore government is not prepared to release him based on the numerous bail orders handed down by the different courts”. 

It appears, government under Buhari, a former military dictator, has devised some incongruous means of frustrating the duo from enjoying bail orders.

Comments Spark Rebuttals 

Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Nigeria, intervened in one of his media chats, saying that those who said that corrupt persons in detention do not have a right for bail, were murderers of the position of the Constitution.

Hence, Onwubiko quoted the comments made by the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, saying the right of accused persons to counsel of their choice and the Duty of Lawyers to defend their clients without Fear or discrimination: 

“They reiterate their belief that the harassment and intimidation of lawyers in any form in the course of their legitimate work in unlawful and counter-productive in a democratic society. Such actions are not only unlawful but antithetical to the rule of law.

“Nothing is further from the truth that once a lawyer undertakes the defense of an accused person particularly a professional colleague, then he must be in active support of the alleged crime or be working against the anti-corruption crusade. 

“The Nigerian constitution, for good reason, presumes a person innocent until proven guilty before a court of competent jurisdiction following a fair hearing, with an opportunity to conduct his defense by a counsel of his choice.”

Provisions of the Constitution on the fundamental rights all citizens

Onwubiko irked by the comments against the detained pointed out what the constitutional provisions state on the fundamental rights all citizens must enjoy especially when faced with charges before the proficient courts of law.

Section 34 (1)(a) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended states thus: “34. (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly; 

(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and” section 35(1)(a)(b)(4)(b) of the same constitution still states: 

“35. (1) Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law – (a) in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty; 

(b) by reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law;” 

“(4) (b) three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date.”

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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