Lawyers react to continued detention of suspended EFCC chairman, Bawa

LAWYERS have reacted to the continued detention of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, by the Department of State Service (DSS).

The two lawyers who spoke to the ICIR condemned the detention of Bawa for nearly two months without the DSS filing a charge against him in a court of law.

Background

The ICIR reported in June that the DSS detained Bawa and the suspended governor of the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.


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But while Emiefele, who was arrested about the same time as Bawa by the secret service, was charged to court on Friday, July 14, Bawa has not been seen in any court of law since his arrest.

The DSS detained Bawa over undisclosed allegations. The detention followed Bawa’s indefinite suspension by president Bola Tinubu.

EFCC Chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa
Abdulrasheed Bawa

A statement released on Thursday, June 14, by the spokesperson of the DSS, Peter Afunanya, stated that Bawa had acknowledged the invitation and arrived at the Service facility.

The ICIR reported that over a month after Bawa’s arrest by the DSS, he was not allowed access to his lawyers and family members.

It was also reliably gathered that Bawa has not made any statement to the Service since his arrest.

Lawyers react

Reacting to the continued detention of Bawa, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Abiola Kolawole, said that under Nigerian law, an individual cannot be detained for more than 24 hours.

He, however, stated that the DSS might have a court order to detain him.

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“They may not be detaining him indefinitely, they may have gotten a court order, and they may be renewing their court order.

 “Under our law, an individual cannot be detained for more than 24 hours,” Abiola stated.

He added that if an investigation is ongoing and the authority feels that releasing a suspect might jeopardise their work, they will find a way to keep that person.

In addition, Abiola said an individual detained and kept without charges can personally ask his lawyers to file an application of ‘habeas corpus’, which will mandate them to take that individual to a judge. 

He, however, submitted that he had not followed Bawa’s arrest closely.

Also speaking on the matter, another lawyer Adefisoye Okunade said detaining people indefinitely without charging them to court violates their fundamental right to personal liberty. 

He said such liberty is guaranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of the FRN, 1999, as altered.

According to Adefisoye, Section 35(4) of the Constitution provides that: “any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) of this section [i.e. for the purpose of bringing him to court, etc. shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time.”

He added that if such a person is not tried within two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail; or three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall be released.

He said such release can either be unconditionally or upon such conditions as reasonably necessary to ensure he appears for trial later. 

“A reasonable time in subsection (4) is defined in subsection (5) as (a) in the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of 40km, a period of one day. 




     

     

    “And (b) in any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable,” he stated.

    He, however, urges individuals like Bawa who are detained without trial to seek redress in a High Court within the State pursuant to section 46(1) of the Constitution and the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules of 2009.

    In addition to the remedies mentioned above, he called for law reform that will criminalise the violation of fundamental rights and suggested that any erring law enforcement agent be brought to justice.

    Attempts to speak to the spokesperson of the DSS, Peter Afunanya, were unsuccessful as he did not pick up his call nor respond to messages sent to his phone.

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