I read with much worry and disturbance, the report from the Federal Capital Territory, that a High Court dismissed the application for bail, filed by PDP chieftain, Senator Iyiola Omisore, for his release from custody. It was reported that the court held that the said application was premature, given that another court had made an order for his remand.
With all due respect, it is totally wrong for any court to deny any citizen in Nigeria, the right to be granted bail, in any criminal case that does not attract capital punishment. This is because an application for bail in a non capital offence, is an invocation of the constitutional right to personal liberty, as enshrined in section 35 of the 1999 Constitution. It therefore baffles me beyond understanding, as to how a court created under the constitution to protect and enforce the rights of citizens, will turn out to be the one denying and frustrating these rights.
Although the power to grant bail is at the discretion of the court based on the facts of every case, such discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously and same must lean in Favour of the liberty of the citizen.
In this particular case, it would seem that the court relied on section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to conclude that Senator Omisore could be detained for 14 days in the first instance and that such detention could be renewed for another 14 days.
This decision is wrong in law, with due respect. Section 293 of ACJA is designed to assist law enforcement agencies carry out detailed investigation in respect of complicated capital offences such as murder, armed robbery, etc, where only the court could grant bail. It is not for economic and financial crimes, to warrant the court to be sanctioning dictatorship and gross violation of the rights of citizens, under the guise of investigation.
In this particular case, it is said that the EFCC itself had already granted bail to Senator Omisore, but with very stringent conditions, leading him to approach the court for a simple order of variation. It is inconceivable that a court of law established under the constitution can be behaving as if Nigeria is under military rule, where peoples' rights are to be locked inside the cooler, for oppression and anarchy to thrive.
Even where the court has granted a remand order under section 293 of ACJA, the same law under section 294 allows the court to grant bail or reduce the period of remand, as the case may be.
We cannot afford a judiciary that is cowed and pocketed by prosecuting agencies, we cannot condone a judiciary that operates at the whims and caprices of the prosecution, totally intimidated, bullied and silenced into total compliance with wanton violation of citizen's rights.
Thus, it is wrong in law, for EFCC to grant bail to a citizen and then the court will deny the same citizen bail! It is clear to me that the courts are gradually and systematically reading the dictatorial body language of Mr. President, Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari, retd., who has so far succeeded in pummeling and rubbishing the judiciary almost beyond redemption.
There is no reason for any citizen to remain in custody indefinitely without trial. Pray, why did the court not at least extract an undertaking from the EFCC that Senator Omisore will be charged to court on a particular day? Why did the court not verify the strength and extent of investigation so far achieved? Why did the court not probe the circumstances of his arrest and detention? This is totally unacceptable.
I do so now urge our courts to stand up and defend the constitution, as that is their sacred oath and duty to Nigerians.
That is why the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, not to frustrate and deny the rights of citizens.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Esq