A foremost human rights lawyer in Nigeria, Femi Falana (SAN), has condemned the Nigerian bar and bench as well as the criminal justice system for working in favour of the rich as against poor Nigerians.
Speaking at the 2019 law week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Epe branch, Lagos state, Falana stated that the Nigeria judicial system treats the rich with respect, presuming them innocent of all criminal activities until proven guilty.
The veteran lawyer also said that the anti-graft agencies in the country are part of the problem because they are yet to secure the convict many high profile cases.
Falana stated that “By virtue of section 17 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
“But in practice, the rich and poor defendants are not treated equally by Nigerian courts. Apart from the fact that rich litigants have the means to hire the services of the best lawyers in any area of the law, the courts are manned by judges who are not neutral in the class struggle being waged daily by the Nigerian people.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria noted that apart from two former governors, Messrs Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, other convicted persons are lowly-placed individuals in the society.
“Notwithstanding that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been accused by the bourgeois media of engaging in Gestapo tactics with respect to the treatment of suspects, it cannot be denied that the rights of influential criminal suspects are well respected by the commission,” he said.
Falana also posited that rich defendants have continued to frustrate their prosecution with the connivance of some senior lawyers adding that rich suspects do apply to be kept in EFCC’s cells rather than police and prison cells.
He said: “The big men and women implicated in allegations of serious economic crimes being investigated by the commission usually receive polite letters of invitation, telephone calls or text messages advising them to contact named investigators whose telephone numbers are supplied.
“If and whenever influential criminal suspects report themselves they are treated with the utmost courtesy by the investigators. Since they are presumed innocent until they are proved guilty by the State they are never paraded before the media, regardless of the gravity of the offence committed by them.”
He urged the Nigerian judicial system to follow the pattern obtained in Western countries where the rich and the poor are treated equally before the law.
“Unlike what obtains in western countries it is infra dignitate to subject big men and women to the restraint of handcuff in Nigeria. Hence, hell was let loose when a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party on trial for money laundering was recently handcuffed by the Kuje prison authorities.
Atiku, PDP lawyers, absent as Supreme Court justifies ruling in favour of Buhari
Recall that the Supreme Court had, on October 30 dismissed the appeal and promised to give reasons for its decision.
However, when the court opened on Friday morning and the case was called, all of the petitioners’ lawyers were absent.
Also, none of the main opposition’s party’s known faces was in court as against the situation on October 30, 2019, when the chieftains of the party flooded the court.
Buhari’s lawyer, Alex Izinyon (SAN) drew the court’s attention to the strange development and noted that it was against the court’s rules for an appellant to stay away from court when a decision is being taken on the appeal.
According to him, no lawyer announced appearance for the appellants and wondered if hearing notices were not served on them.
In response to the development, the lead judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Okoro, said the appellants were served with hearing notices and that the court will proceed with the business of the day despite the appellants’ absence.
hief judge sets 27 awaiting trial inmates free in Bauchi
Justice Rabi Umar was the head of the State Administration of Justice Committee constituted by the Kauran Bauchi led administration to undertake a routine quarterly visit to Correctional Service centres.
The committee was to review cases of awaiting trial inmates who have spent three or more years in prison without a trial, in a bid to decongest such centres.
The committee which comprised of representatives of the State Custodial Centre, Directorate of State Services and the Nigerian Bar Association, had during its first-quarter sitting, released 29 awaiting trial inmates across the correctional centres of the state.
Releasing twenty-one out of the 27 awaiting trial inmates at the Bauchi custodial centre, the chief judge urged them to be of good conduct and exemplary behaviour in society, having regained their freedom.
She warned that she would not be lenient with anyone among the released who commits any crime and returns to the centres,
Justice Rabi Umar also asked the freed to seek forgiveness their respective family members for committing atrocities and urged younger ones among them to seek knowledge from schools or any other learning centre with a view to becoming useful members of the society.
“See the regaining of your freedom as an act of God, not because of any influence or your position in the society before, you should also not brag-up for the freedom you regain, as doing so will be disobedience or ungrateful to God”.
The Chief Judge said that the exercise is continuous as the law has given her the power to look into where people are unnecessarily remanded without trial.
One of the freed, Inuwa Hamza Wanzam, on behalf of others, thanked God and the committee for the gesture and said that their release will be an end to the correctional service walls.
In Katagum emirate where there are two centres, Zaki and Azare, the committee took-off time to visit the Katagum palace where the emir, Umar Farouk Umar assured of his council’s support and cooperation to enable the commit succeed in its assigned responsibility.
The Emir described the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, where he or she still has the confidence but expressed dissatisfaction on some unnecessary detention in collaboration with some judges, saying people should be given their rights.
He warned those judges who unnecessarily detain citizens that the prayers of such detainees are easily accepted by God, saying ‘People are being detained unnecessarily on common issues”.
Other six awaiting trial inmates released include four in Azare and one each in Misau and Jama’are correctional centres, thus bringing the number of inmates who regained their freedom to twenty-seven (27).
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