By ONIKEKE MUSA Abdulgafar Oluwasegun
Still very fresh in my memory, the efforts of the immediate past Kwara State Government, under the leadership of Alhaji Fatai Ahmed to uncover the veil of ghost workers in the state. Like him, the current administration under the leadership of His Excellency, the Governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrasaq Abdulrahman has embacked on the fight against ghost workers in the state and over 1000 ghost workers have allegedly been detected.
While I will not indulge too much in both of the politics and moral aspect of the case of the embattled Chairman, Kwara Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Salihu Idris Toyin and the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Permanent Secretary, Bayo Audu Onimago and others, it will be both injustice and negligence to slumber on the clear sacred of the provisions of the constitution and other relevant laws as the EFCC just recently arrested and paraded the suspects for alleged offense of criminal conspiracy, diversion of public fund and abuse of office following the linkage of 400 workers salaries to the suspects.
The suspects’ human dignity and reputation have been subjected to ridicule, public humiliation and media trials by the EFCC, while investigation is still ongoing on the matter without proper trial before a competent court of justice.
This has led me to throw my search light to unveil the face of the legal rawviews on the doubting question of what the position of the law is on presumption of innocence and parade of suspects by the security agencies in nigeria.
The rule of law seems somehow very clear and straightforward on the issue of whether the presumption of innocence as enshrined under Section 36 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered) protects a suspect from ridiculous media trial and prevents security agencies such as the police, EFCC and other sister agencies from parading suspects. The section provides that;
“Every person charged with criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty: provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.”
I strongly submit that the parading and the subjection to public humiliation of the Kwara NUT Chairman, Salihu Idris Toyin and others by the EFCC without trial pending investigation is illegal and unconstitutional relying on the case of SUNDAY EWEJE v. THE STATE (2013) AELR 1641(CA) wherein their lordship, ALI ABUBAKAR B. GUMEL, J.C.A in a leading judgement held thus;
”I agree with his submission on the point that by a combined reading of S.36(5) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and S. 138(1) of Evidence Act 2004 (now S.135(1) of Evidence Act, 2011), an accused person charged with the commission of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty” See also OKORO v. THE STATE (1988) NWLR pt. 74 (a) 255, EGU v. THE STATE (1988) 2 NWLR pt. 78 (a) 602
In the similar vein, the court in the case of NDUKWEM CHIZIRI NICE v. AG, FEDERATION & ANOR. (2007) CHR 218 at 232 wherein Justice Banjoko held that;
“The act of parading him (the suspect) before the press as evidenced by the exhibits annexed to the affidavit was uncalled for and a callous disregard for his person”. See Also Section 34 (1) of CFRN 1999
The presumption of innocence is one of the constitutional safeguards that protect a suspect from degrading treatments such as jungle justice, public humiliation and media trial and presumed innocent until the guilt is established before a court of law.
This is so because Nigeria operates an accusatorial systems and there is need to protect individuals from wrongful allegations or unwarranted accusations. See the case of OLAWOYE v. COP(2006) 2 NWLR pt. 965 p. 427
However, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja in the case of DYOT BAYI & 14 ORS v. FRN(2004-2009) CCJLER 245 at 265 condemned what it called the “media trial” of the suspect in the following words;
”The court is of the opinion that for the fact that the defendants presented the applicants before the press when no judge or court has found them guilty, certainly constitute a violation of the principle of presumption of innocence”
Therefore, I condemn the media trial and parading of the Kwara NUT Chairman, Salihu Idris Toyin and others.
This approach of self-help as employed by the EFCC has been described by Farrah and Dugdale as “a symptom of underdeveloped system” which is dangerous and capable of causing total breakdown of law and order. It is unfit for the modern times.
In conclusion, the legal parlance must not support corruption and though the anti-corruption fight is good for our governance. The temple of justice have to observe the rule of law for the preservation of rights, freedom and democracy.
ONIKEKE MUSA Abdulgafar Oluwasegun is an undergraduate student at the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin. He can be reached via email@example.com.