Harvard trained attorney and founder of Due Process Advocates International, Emeka Ugwuonye, has faulted the minister of Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello over his remarks that those seeking bail for criminals should be arrested.
Newsband had reported how the minister while fielding questions from journalists at the 40th session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, lamented that hoodlums arrested for various crimes were being released through the intervention of highly placed Nigerians who use them as foot soldiers for heinous crimes.
Ugwuonye in a statement titled, “The Ridiculous Interference In The Administration Of Criminal Justice By Government Minister” which a copy was made available to Newsband, described the minister’s remarks as arrant ignorance and pernicious tendency towards dictatorship and repression.
He further stressed that the statement of the minister reflects a dangerous culture within the present government.
According to the human rights lawyer, it is reminiscent of the day President Buhari, in a national broadcast, mentioned three accused persons by name who should never be granted bail.
The statement reads, “The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello, was quoted in the press as having suggested that anybody ‘facilitating bail for criminals” should be arrested. One would wonder if this was a mischaracterization of the position of the Minister. But the report is clear and the context specific and direct. The statement was made during the 40th Session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organized by the Presidential Communication Team. So, the occasion was important and serious enough, and well-planned for the explanation of the policies of the Government to Nigerians. While taking questions from journalists at the event, the Minister stated that anyone who requests bails for “arrested criminals” should be arrested.
“The position now well attributed to the Minister is unfortunate and damning at various conceptual and practical levels. First, it amounts to an interference in the administration of criminal justice. To grant bail or to deny bail to a person accused of a crime is a judicial decision made in the discretion of individual judges. And there is a clear procedure for application for bail. The law allows it. The law set the standards for the application of the law. What the Minister said undermines the law and clearly seeks to usurp the powers of the court. This reflects again a dangerous culture within this government. It is reminiscent of the day President Buhari, in a national broadcast, mentioned three accused persons by name who should never be granted bail.
“Further, the statement attributed to the Minister exposes a wide range of people to the danger of capricious arrests and intimidation by law enforcement agencies. Who are the people likely to be seen as those “facilitating bail”? These will include lawyers, sureties and relatives of people arrested. Power for such a wholesale persecution of indiscriminate number of Nigerians is something no government should ever seek to have. Unfortunately, the Minister is actually asserting such power in a shameless and most blatant manner possible.
“The Minister and his colleagues need to be reminded that an accused person is presumed innocent. To refer to them as “criminals” before trial and conviction is to display of arrant ignorance or a pernicious tendency towards dictatorship and repression. Also, the Minister should ask himself: what percentage of people charged with criminal offenses in Abuja are convicted at the end of trial? Evidence shows less than 20%. If 80% of those were denied bail, they would have spent years in prison unjustly while awaiting trial. Does the Minister also understand that apart from the gross human rights violation associated with unjustly keeping thousands of innocent people in prison, its costs the Government billions to feed and run the prisons, and the prisons are congested.
“It is, indeed, a shame for any Minister of any government to hold the views attributed to Minister Bello. It depicts him as uninformed and incompetent, at the very best.”