Human rights lawyer wants EFCC to stop parading suspects in public
By Abiodun JAMIU
TOPE Akinyode, a human rights lawyer, has berated the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) over the continuous public parade of suspects, saying that the action of the anti-graft agency is a violation of citizens’ rights.
According to him, the agency violates section 36(5) of the Nigerian constitution which provides that a suspect is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
This is in a reaction to a comment by a social media user who stated that the Commission needs to stop the habit of parading suspects who have not been proved guilty by the law.
This followed a tweet by Nigerian rapper, Ruggedman @ruggedyBaba, who called out the Commission for withholding the properties of a young producer who was arrested after a raid on a hotel where he worked by the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC , however, responded that suspects were only paraded after they have been profiled based on evidence gotten from investigations.
The commission stated further that by parading suspects in the public, it was informing the public of its activities, and not intended to sour a suspect’s reputation.
But the human rights lawyer explained that public parade of suspects is illegal under the Nigerian law.
The only exception, according to him, is an identification parade which allows a witness to identify a suspect among pools of people who share a striking resemblance with him.
In this regard, Akinbode said there is a big gap between public parade of suspects and identification parade. He, therefore, advanced that any suspects unjustly paraded by any Nigerian security operatives can contest it in court because it is a violation of the fundamental right to human dignity
“It is illegal for security operatives to parade innocent citizens. A suspect (even if caught at the scene of a crime) is innocent unless convicted by Court. Media and public parade of suspects have no legitimacy under the Nigerian judicature,” Akinbode said.
“The only exception to this is ‘Identification Parade’ which is allowed by law. But there is a clear distinction between media parade and identification parade.”
“While media parade is out-rightly illegal, identification parade is a matter of legal necessity where the identity of a suspect is in doubt by a prosecution witness. So to allay the doubt of a prosecution witness, the real suspect of a crime is placed in a group of people who have striking physical resemblance as the suspect and the police would ask the witness to identify the suspect. This is what identification parade entails,” he explained.
“Identification parade is lawful and has been validated in many cases such as; EYISI & ORS V. THE STATE (2000) LPELR-1186(SC), OKOH v. THE STATE (2008) LPELR-8352(CA), EHIMIYEIN v. STATE (2013) LPELR-20764(CA), etc. However, media parade which the EFCC and other security operatives do is illegal and very overreaching. This was the judgement of the Court in Ottoh Obono v. Inspector General of Police, Suit No; FHC/CA/CS/91/2009,” Akinbode added.
More Nigerians have followed the Human Rights lawyer to call the antigraft agency to stop parading suspects in the public.
One Akeredolu P. Temidayo @peterparne condemned the action of the Commission, stating that suspects who have been paraded but were later exonerated of their crimes should seek redress in a competent court of law.
“EFCC is getting away with so much in this country. After parading them like convicts when your powers are limited to investigation and prosecution and you end up not proving the alleged crime what happens? Citizens in this kind of situation should sue for reparations,” Temidayo said.
Another Twitter user @phemmyseye said “Even if investigations have been concluded he or she is not yet guilty until a court of law says so, so the parading of people should be after they have been certified guilty by the court of law.
But @mukhtarbello20 disagreed with the position of the other.
According to him, the act of parading suspects with their exhibit is a norm anywhere in the world, stating that suspects who are uncomfortable with the parade could seek redress when acquitted by a court.
“Everywhere in the world that’s how it is. To parade suspects along with their exhibits. So why making this issue a topic of complaint. Let the suspects if freed and acquitted pursue their legal case for compensation.”