A renowned Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Dr Kayode Ajulo has urged the Department of State Services, DSS, to respect the rule of law in pursuing the allegation leveled against the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFFC, Abdulrasheed Bawa and others.
Ajulo’s call is imperative in order to avoid infringing on the accused fundamental rights.
The lawyer, in a press release personally signed by him to show solidarity,óà argued that it was unlawful to keep Bawa in detention longer than when the law stipulates.
He therefore demanded that President Bola Tinubu to caution DSS operatives, with respect to his arrest after suspension, ultimately, the way the agency handles its investigation and his prosecution, such that it allows the rule of law to prevail.
Ajulo’s full solidarity statement is published below:
ATTENTION MR PRESIDENT: ILLEGAL AND LONG DETENTION OF MR ABDULRASHEED BAWA & OTHERS BY THE DSS AND THE IMPERATIVENESS OF THE COURT TO DECIDE THEIR FATE
I once again present my warmest and most sincere compliments to our dear President, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR. Hearty kudos for the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds spent in power and for taking bold, pragmatic and egalitarian steps to assent several bills into law in a bid to boost and revive the country’s economy amidst other strata. I unreservedly salute your Excellency for the developments thus far but would however beseech and appeal that several of the bills passed should be professionally reviewed further to ensure that better amendments are made to some of them but I would, however, dwell less on this path as that is not the locus and focus of this press statement.
Your Excellency would recall that on May 29th, 2023 during your swearing-in and in your inaugural speech, you said,
“Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity”.
Further in defining the principles that would guide your administration, Your Excellency then said:
“Nigeria will be impartially governed according to the constitution and the rule of law”.
However, before this time Mr President you have displayed your trust in and advocacy for the rule of law as enshrined in the speech you directed to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, about 19 years ago, during the Christmas Eve event at Island Club in Lagos. You said:
“Federal government has a responsibility. They are the leader of moral persuasion. The number one law implementer must obey the rule of the land. You cannot be junketing around the world looking for investment for this country- you want to create employment opportunity, you want people to come and invest in Nigeria. The investors will ask you can I come in and if I find anything wrong can I go to your judiciary, will you obey the rule of law?”
The first principle on the list, though brief and concise but entails and embeds a lot in its simplicity. Therefore, the same cannot be said casually without work done towards upholding and adhering to it.
Your Excellency, let me also remind you that one of the fundamental ills of the past administration headed by former President Muhammadu Buhari which was vehemently rebuked by many Nigerians was his failure to comply with the provisions of the Constitution regarding issues of unlawful detention as many suffered abuses to their Fundamental Rights as provided for in chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended), particularly provisions of Section 35 relating to rights to Personal Liberty and further recognized by the provisions of Articles 6 & 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as Articles 3 & 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Consequently, in impartial governance according to the constitution and rule of law, issues of rights of individuals and citizens should be paramount and all measures, actions and procedures to correct aberrant personnel should be done by the provisions of the law and nothing below such standard counts as same contradicts the principles with which your administration sets out to govern the Nation.
Let me foremostly posit that I remain an unrelenting enthusiast
and advocate of Human Rights who have consistently clamoured for the principle of the Rule of law and good governance. So, I make bold to state that the purpose of this statement is not based on the influence of any personality and it is genuinely from a position of safeguarding the law and its constituent.
If there are doubts, several pronouncements, publications and demonstrations exist in the record of the polity where I have aired my dissent and loud cry as to the defective administration of some agencies of government particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by its suspended chairman some of which are premised on the unjust treatment of people who go to visit the commission for several purposes as well as the act of fewer regards given by the Commission and its staffs to the accused and legal practitioners.
In a nutshell, it is lucid that I am neither a friend nor a fan of the embattled former Chairman and his administration but I remain a devoted friend and fan of the law and upholding its tenets.
The Position of the law is clear as to when detention becomes unlawful in the case of Dokubo-Asari v. FRN (2017) Lpelr-958(SC) where Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, JSC (Pp 38 – 41 Paras E – C) in interpreting the provisions of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of FRN stated that.
“Now, let me turn to the provisions of Section 35 of the Constitution. These provisions in the first place are not absolute. The relevant provisions of the section are as follows: “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 – (c) For the purpose of bringing him before a Court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence; (4) Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1)(c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time, and if he is not tried within a period of: (a) two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail; or (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. (7) Nothing in this section shall be construed – (a) in relation to subsection (4) of this section, as applying in the case of a person arrested or detained upon reasonable suspicion of having committed a capital offence; and (b) as invalidating any law by reason only that it authorises the detention for a period not exceeding three months of a member of the armed forces of the Federation, or a member of the Nigeria Police Force in execution of a sentence imposed by an officer of the Armed Forces of the Federation or of the Nigeria Police Force, in respect of an offence punishable by such detention of which he has been found guilty.” (Italics supplied for emphasis) The above provisions of Section 35 of the Constitution leave no one in doubt that the section is not absolute. Personal liberty of an individual within the contemplation of Section 35(1) of the Constitution is a qualified right in the context of this particular case and by virtue of subsection (1)(c) thereof which permits restriction on individual liberty in the course of judicial inquiry or where, lightly as in this case, the appellant was arrested and put under detention upon reasonable suspicion of having committed a felony. A person’s liberty, as in this case, can also be curtailed in order to prevent him from committing further offence(s). It is my belief as well that if every person accused of a felony can hide under the canopy of Section 35 of the Constitution to escape lawful detention then an escape route to freedom is easily and richly made available to persons suspected to have committed serious crimes and that will not augur well for the peace, progress, prosperity and tranquillity of the society. I find support in so saying from Irikefe’s JSC (as he then was) earlier pronounced in the case of Echeazu v. Commissioner of Police (1974) NMLR 308 at page 314.”
It is clear from the above that except in issues or matters of reasonable suspicions of commission of capital offences and even the (b) clause relating to members of Police and armed forces are premised on the pronouncement of guilt before detention can be permissive.
One thing is pertinent which we cannot, however, shy away from and that is the fact that Abdulrasheed Bawa has thus far been accused to have violated and erred in so many ways some of which include but are not limited to, “various charges of abuse of office, accused of stealing and selling dozens of petrol-bearing trucks confiscated from suspected looters and auctioning them off to his proxies at ridiculous prices while he was in charge of the Port Harcourt office of the EFCC, and alleged violation of the code of conduct for public officers by owning properties beyond his legitimate income.” As recorded by many Newspapers publications.
What is however worthy of note is that all of these allegations against the suspended EFCC chairman have not been proven and his innocence remains except the Court pronounces him guilty of all. The continuous detention upon his arrest by the State Security Services remains unlawful, bizarre and a breach of his Right to Personal Liberty as provided for by the Constitution and same should not be a measure of torture as it is unconstitutional and only stains the name of Your Excellency and contradicts your foremost principle in setting things right in our nation.
According to a statement in the media credited to the public relation officer of the DSS, Mr Peter Afunnaya, on the arrest of the suspended Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele, he said:
“The Service implements Standard Operating Procedures on Suspect Handling and Investigation to the latter. It conducts its affairs transparently, professionally and respects the rule of law in compliance with democratic governance.”@
I hitherto conclude on the whole that the arrest and unlawful detention of Abdulrasheed Bawa by the State Security Service is a ploy to guilt what His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR and his administration stand for.
I, on the backdrop of this urge, beseech and appeal to the President and Commander- in -Chief to intra vires look into this issue and order that the captive be set free in a bid to uphold the tenets of the law and properly prosecute the matter for the court to decide and pronounce the suspended EFCC chairman guilty or otherwise of the offence.
My full solidarity compliments.
Dr Olukayode Ajulo, OON, FCIArb. UK
Castle of Law, Abuja-Nigeria.