A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, who is also one of Nigeria’s best lawyers, says looters of our national funds do not deserve to be granted bail, not excluding politicians who are facing charges of corruption.
According to him, since people involved in grand corruption including suspects of armed robbery and kidnap, are not usually allowed bail, those who are being tried for allegedly looting the national treasury should no longer be granted bail as well.
The Lagos based lawyer made the remarks in a paper he delivered on Thursday, March 31, 2016, titled, “Rule of Law and Treatment of Politically-Exposed Corruption cases,” at a round-table on the anti-corruption war organised by the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Lagos, where he was the keynote speaker.
Also in attendance at the round-table was the former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili who was one of participants at the occasion chaired by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Professor Itse Sag.
Speaking at the event, Femi Falana represented by Mr. Wahab Shittu, expressed concern that most of the on-going corruption cases involving high ranking officials may not be rounded off before President Buhari concludes his tenure in 2019, hence, his recommendation of an immediate reform of the criminal justice system which the creation of special courts will be part of if the anti-graft war will be fruitful.
He went ahead to address the Nigerian Bar Association and the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who had called on Buhari to respect the rule of law, saying they were insincere. He said:
“The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria has urged the government to fight corruption under the rule of law. On its own part the NBA has censored the Federal Government for violating the human rights of certain suspects. But neither the BOSAN nor the NBA has deemed it fit to caution the members of the legal profession who are determined to frustrate the prosecution of corruption cases.
“As far as both bodies are concerned, human rights are the exclusive reserve of the bourgeois. Hence, the tenets of the rule of law are only invoked when the trial of VIPs is involved, while human rights are violated in Nigeria when the looters of the treasury are arrested and detained for a few days without trial.”
Femi Falana showed surprised over the fact that BOSAN and NBA failed to talk about human rights when “70 soldiers were recently tried in camera, convicted and sentenced to death for demanding weapons to fight the well-armed terrorists,” and why the two groups were not concerned about the condition of “40,000 out of the 52,000 prison inmates who are awaiting trial under dehumanising conditions.”
Also speaking on Thursday at the special congress and public lecture organised by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, chapter, Mr. Femi Falana who spoke on the topic ‘The limits of anti-corruption law’ said judges who granted frivolous perpetual injunctions in cases of corruption and lawyers who filed for such injunctions were slowing down the anti-corruption war in the country. He noted that the neo-colonialist nature of capitalism practised in Nigeria had given rise to a set of wealthy Nigerians who “are bigger than the nation’s laws”.
“The criminal justice system has been hijacked by the corrupt and looters of the public treasury and their lawyers. It is only in Nigeria that an accused will ask his trial to be suspended.
“Many of the governors who faced corruption charges, their lawyers had asked for their trial to be suspended, and judges granted this. How would a lawyer also plead with a judge that a criminal should not be arrested?
“Someone who stole millions of naira getting perpetual injunction not to be arrested and prosecuted, lawyers must allow cases to go on.”
The activist further stated that there was nothing close to equality before the law in the country, as Nigerians who are wealthy and influential receive lesser punishment whereas the common men get heavier penalties criminal system.
He recalled incidents which happened in Edo and Osun States respectively, where someone was sentenced to three years imprisonment for stealing bush meat, and another 7 years for stealing handset.
“But corrupt public officials prefer to be remanded in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s custody or being remanded in Kuje Prisons.
“Let me tell you, EFCC cells have beddings and mosquito nets, and I have been detained in Kuje Prisons twice, it is one of the best prisons in the country. Why didn’t they take them to Kirikiri or Ikoyi or Ijebu Ode Prisons?
“And whoever have been detained in police cells would know that they sleep on bare floor, and a bucket put at a corner to serve as container for their faeces.”
Judging by the way corruption cases were presently being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and considering the continuous injunctions being granted, Mr. Femi Falana noted that the government may end up getting not more than five convictions. To restrain the lawyers involved in this practice, he suggested that the names of those under trial for corrupt practices as well as those of their lawyers be published.