Monday, October 15, 2007

No need to apologize, EFCC ! No One Is Above The Law!

No need to apologize, EFCC !

Wednesday, 06 April 2005

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is doing a fine job! EFCC must adhere to its apt motto: No one is above the law! EFCC must operate with blinders on! The EFCC in my opinion is making a different difference in Nigeria’s march to greatness. Mallam Nuhu “WMD” Ribadu must be unhindered, all strictures must be removed from his way he must be allowed a free-hand, even as he observes the ideals of and the fine points of due process and the tenets of rule of law…without deference to “big men” suspects. All criminal suspects are equal!

Section 341(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria provides that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly, no persons shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment….This is a fine constitutional right that every Nigerian is entitled and deserves. I will add that I also fiercely believe in the presumption of innocence of every accused person or suspect.

Having made the above disclaimers, it must be said, and quickly too, that Mr. Tafa Balogun is no more important than a Nigerian farmer in Bakolori Sokoto, Mr. Balogun is not more deserving of constitutional rights than an accused trader in Aba or Onitsha Markets, nor is Mr. Balogun more deserving of handcuffs free hands, than an accused bus conductor in Yaba Lagos or an accused Amala seller in Dugbe Market in Ibadan!

Our Constitutions stipulates equality before the law and processes, that being the case, we must here insist, that there should be no disparity or double standards in the treatments by our criminal justice system, of persons properly indicted or facing criminal prosecution. A criminal suspect is a criminal suspect is a criminal suspect! No Nigerian should have to wear demeaning handcuffs, but if it be, the rites of passage for those accused of breaking our laws, if it be the consequences of a lawyer turn inspector general of police, who knowingly operated on the wrong side of our laws? So be it! Let him wear it!

Is it not the case, that petty criminals are neck-laced with tyres by vigilantes and dealt summary arbitrary justice? Do we not know or realize the fact, that ineffective policing, mal-administered police force and the consequent loss of faith in our law enforcement has led to unsavory resort to self-help arbitrariness of Bakkassi Boys, OPC, Area Boys etc? Would any decent Nigerian engage in such self-help law enforcements of the vigilantism, if Nigeria Police were effective, efficient and trusted by the public? And is tyre-on-the-neck with the suspect set on fire instant “justice” not all a result of failed policing in Nigeria?
All these results from a failed policing strategy, a police force lacking equipments, resources and leadership, and voila! We find out, that a fox was put in charge of the hen house! If Mr. Balogun is found guilty, he should and must be dealt with, to the fullest extent of the law. I am not suggesting anything draconian, but the import of how egregious his alleged offences are should not be lost on anyoe!

If and when Mr. Balogun is convicted, Nigerians will then be in the presence of a man, who presided over an inept police department, a man who was given money, materials and mandate to reform the Nigeria Police, but he chose to use all these resources for his personal aggrandizement? Why would any Nigerian want to cry for Mr. Balogun? What decent person, would cry for him, and do so in good conscience?

To Handcuff or Not To Handcuff Accused Persons/Criminal Suspects: Arguing Both Sides! What constitutes standard practice?

The issue is whether any accused defendant or suspect in criminal proceedings should be handcuffed and further, whether handcuffing is necessary, even if humiliating? If the answer to the first question is a yes, then, anyone arrested, indicted upon probable cause, with sufficient information indicative of criminal wrong-doing, should be handcuffed, particularly, if the arresting and arraigning officers, have concerns or fears for their safety and that of society. In America accused defendants are regularly handcuffed, and convicts on probation /parole are frequently required to were ankle bracelets to enable monitoring of their movements. Ms. Martha Stewart is recent case in point, as an example.

Secondly, if we answer that handcuffs are necessary to serve as the actual physical restraint at the commencement of criminal proceedings, after an indicting instrument have been filed or such other substantial steps in criminal prosecution has begun, it must then be considered irrelevant, that the arrestee is the former inspector general of police or the former president of Nigeria or a lorry driver from my hometown!

When preliminary investigation reveal wrong-doing and criminal enterprises up to the tune of Thirteen Billion Naira! Why must there be this reverence or adoration of the erstwhile inspector general of police, who is allegedly the richest criminal that was unfortunately in charge of our law enforcement apparatus? He spat in our faces!

Mr. Balogun deserves all that he can benefit constitutionally from due process and the rule law, including, the presumption of innocence and all. But does he deserve that more than an armed robber? If his guilt is proven, I find his alleged offence more violent, more egregious than ten thousand violent armed robberies! He alleged offences, actually allowed crimes and criminals to have thrived in Nigeria, during his watch as the inspector general of police. He was the cause of crimes!

What can anyone actually say in favor of a lawyer, entrusted with the machinery of law enforcement or policing, but who chose instead, to be a capo and mafia kingpin? Here is a man accused of diverting crime fighting budgets, material, monies and resources for his personal use! Here is a man, who willingly became part of the problem instead of fathoming crime fighting solutions for our country. Here is man who frittered away a chance to make Nigeria crime free for all of us, crime free for tourists, crime free for investments that we desperately need, Here is a man who missed a golden opportunity to serve Nigeria with all the resources and the free hand given him to reform the Police!

Here is a man, who presided over the Nigeria Police Force, during a period of high profile assassinations, armed robberies and the reign of violent thugs, while he siphoned away resources meant for combating these crimes! So many crimes in Nigeria remain unsolved, including the high profile ones, Nigeria police lack many modern crime fighting materials and sundry resources, and yet, we have a man, who may have single-handedly deprived Nigeria Police Thirteen Billion Naira budgeted and designated for the Police… but for democracy and the rule of law, we ought to be seeking his blood! We would not be here debating his lawyer’s sensibilities and concerns regarding whether his client was humiliated or whatever! I concede that the worst criminal suspect or accused amongst us, even still, deserves proper due process and all the benefits of the rule of law; including the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence.

Thinking about the enormity or magnitude of Mr. Balogun’s alleged infractions, just make my head spin. What treachery of extraordinary proportions is this? What extreme betrayal of trust, by a lawyer no less!

Just imagine for a moment, the many Nigerian lives lost, because of ineffective and maladministration induced by the treacherous betrayal of its top commander!

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