The Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA- SPIDEL), has expressed dismay at the constant attack by security agencies on legal practitioners during their professional duties to their clients.
The body noted that the alleged maltreatment by the nation’s security agencies ranged from brutalization of lawyers to denial of the use of their communication gadgets as well as arbitrary transfer of cases to the headquarters in Abuja even when all the parties reside outside the federal capital territory.
The NBA-SPIDEL, while making its position known on the heels of the rearing cases of brutalization against lawyers while carrying out their professional duties, regretted that Nigeria security agencies have infamous record of human rights abuses and brutality against the citizens whenever they are suspected of committing any crime.
The position of the NBA-SPIDEL was contained in a statement signed by the Chairman, Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani, forwarded to AFRIPOST on Sunday.
The umbrella body of Nigerian lawyers explained that it’s unlawful for an agency charged with responsibility of investigating a matter and collating evidence to turn itself into the accuser, prosecutor and judge.
According to the lawyers, “what is more appalling is that a lawyer can quickly transmute from merely representing his client to being labeled an accused person by the security agents which leads to brutalization, harassment, unlawful arrest and detention”.
The Nigerian legal body pointed out that section 35(2) of the 1999 constitution as amended provided that any person who is arrested or detained shall have a right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any person of his choice.
It also pointed out, “Section 6(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 provided that an officer or any person making an arrest shall inform the suspect of his right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice.
“The 1999 constitution clearly provides that the accused person shall have a right to consult a legal practitioner of his choice before making, endorsing or writing a statement, or answering any question put to him after arrest.
“The import of the above is that under the extant Nigerian laws, every accused person is entitled to a lawyer of his choice or legal representation”.
Continuing, the NBA-SPIDEL stated,
“The number of lawyers who have been wrongly arrested, detained, brutalized, harassed and disgraced are too many to chronicle. More recently, however, some of these victims include Mr. Justin Gbagir, NBA Makurdi Branch Chairman who was grievously assaulted by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Makurdi Zonal Commander in Benue State; Mr. Shamsudden Musa who was detained for 105 days by the police in Abuja, and Mr. Ozunye Nsirim who was detained and charged to court by the Rivers State Police Command for defending his client.
The non-governmental body further lamented that many lawyers who were assaulted and harassed by the security agencies over the years had suffered in silence, given that their cases did not attract the desired attention.
According to the umbrella body, “the position of the law in Nigeria is that offence committed in Lagos cannot be tried in Abuja no matter the gravity of the offence. The pervading practice by the offices of the Inspector General of Police, Chairman of EFCC or Director-General of the DSS of arresting or inviting every accused person to Abuja ovet offences allegedly committed outside Abuja is not only illegal but unreasonable”.
While frowning at the alleged brutality meted to Nigerian lawyers by the nation’s security agencies, NBA-SPIDEL called on the heads of the security agencies in the country to immediately end this unwholesome practice, moreso given that these entities have both state and zonal offices that are being funded to investigate cases.
The body of lawyers in Nigeria also demanded every offence which is alleged to have been committed in any state should be investigated and tried within the jurisdiction where it occurs.
The NBA-SPIDEL, therefore, solicited the understanding of all major stakeholders in order to achieve international best practice,s especially in criminal justice administration.
“This will position Nigeria as a country where the rule of law and the rights of the citizens are accorded primacy.
“This is a responsibility that no stakeholder in the criminal justice system must shirk”, the body submitted.