A foremost prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs, has joined the call for the release of the suspended EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
Bawa was invited by the Department of State Services (DSS) on June 14 and has since remained in the custody of the security agency.
In a statement made available to Channels Television on Monday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) cited relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 bordering on remand order to show that the continued detention of Bawa could no longer be justified in law.
According to Jacobs, it is obvious that the maximum period in which a suspect can be detained in Nigeria through a remand order is 56 days, but Bawa has been in detention for 68 days, contrary to the rule of law, a situation which must be condemned by all lovers of democracy.
The senior lawyer’s call comes after human rights lawyer Femi Falana on June 30 similarly asked the DSS to speed up the investigation into the cases involving the suspended EFCC chairman and the embattled Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
See the full statement below:
THE ILLEGALITY OF THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF MR. ABDULRASHEED BAWA
Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa was the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) until the 14th day of June, 2023 when he was suspended from office by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.
Bawa was arrested by the officers of the Department of State Services (DSS) immediately after his suspension by the President and he has since remained in the custody of DSS. Recently, the DSS was reported to have claimed that the detention of Mr. Bawa was not illegal in that there was a remand order issued by the court, empowering the DSS to detain him.
Today, the 21st day of August, 2023 makes the 68th day of Bawa’s detention. The question that arises from the foregoing is whether a remand order can last for up to 68 days. The remand order in Bawa’s case was issued pursuant to the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Regrettably, a close examination of the provisions of the Act, bordering on remand order would show that the continued detention of Mr. Abdulrasheeed Bawa can no longer be justified in law.
Section 293 of the Act provides for the procedure to be followed in procuring a remand order. Procuring a remand order becomes necessary in order not to be seen to be violating the provisions of section 35 (4) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which prescribes that any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time. Susbsection 5 of the said section 35 of the Constitution defines a “reasonable time” to mean between 24 to 48 hours depending on the availability of a court of competent jurisdiction within the place of arrest and detention.
Now, where the investigation cannot possibly be concluded within that period of 24 to 48 hours prescribed under the Constitution, the Magistrate Court may permit the detention of the suspect for a longer period as the court may consider reasonable subject to the court’s supervision. It must also be noted that the remand order is not usually issued in respect of minor and non-indictable offences. Although, in the case of Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, the offence for which he is being detained has not been made known to the public.
By the provisions of section 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, a remand warrant issued under section 293 of the Act is to last in the first instance, for a period of 14 days and may subsequently be renewed for another period of 14 days making a total of 28 days. Upon the expiration of the 28 days, the Magistrate is required to invite the Attorney General of the Federation, the detaining authority (the DSS), and the suspect to address the court as to why the remand order should not be vacated and the suspect released unconditionally. This is the third stage. Within the same period (third stage), the Magistrate has 14 days within which to decide whether to extend the remand order or release the suspect unconditionally and this third stage makes a total number of 42 days in which a suspect can be detained. If the Magistrate is satisfied, after hearing parties as aforesaid, that the suspect should still be further detained, the lifespan of the remand order may finally be extended for another 14 days making a total of 56 days.
Thereafter, the suspect ought to and must be released unconditionally except where a charge is preferred against him before a competent court of law. (See Rotimi Jacobs on Criminal Procedure (1st Edition 2023 Vol. II pages 1331 to 1337).
Having regards to the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, examined above, it is obvious that the maximum period in which a suspect can be detained in Nigeria through a remand order is 56 days.
As said earlier, today, the 21st day of August, 2023, makes the 68th day since Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has been in detention, supposedly, pursuant to a remand order.
The concern now is not necessarily about the person of Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa but the need to respect and observe the rule of law in a constitutional democracy which we practise in Nigeria. In every constitutional democracy, any conduct which runs contrary to the rule of law must not only be avoided but must be deprecated by all lovers of democracy. As someone who believes in the truism that injustice to one is injustice to all and as a lawyer, I see it as a point of duty to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to the obvious constitutional infraction and the illegality which the continued detention of Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa represents and I therefore call on the relevant authorities to be properly guided and tow the part of justice in the instant case and other similar cases.
ROTIMI JACOBS SAN, CON.