Lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana has hit the Nigeria Police for always rushing to parade poor men without finding them guilty of any offence.
He said the same police would give rich men cover once they went against the law.
Falana, who was reacting to the recent arrest of 20 persons in connection with the Ile-Ife clash and the clampdown on members of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, said, they should sue the federal government for damages.
The lawyer in a statement Sunday evening said the media parade of the suspects by the police infringed their fundamental rights, and that it also violated the principle of presumption of innocence until proved guilty.
He also warned the attorney-general of the federation to caution law enforcement agencies against parading criminal suspects.
He said, “Although the courts have repeatedly cautioned the law enforcement agencies to desist from parading criminal suspects before the media the inspector-general of police, Mr Ibrahim Idris has justified the illegal practice. It was a defence which smacks of official impunity and insensitivity,” he wrote in an article.
“Notwithstanding that such media parade is prejudicial to the fundamental right of criminal suspects to fair hearing the ruling class has not stopped it because it is part of the humiliation of lowly placed citizens. Hence, while it is not unusual to parade poor criminal suspects who are accused of stealing handsets whose value is less than N10,000 it is infra dignitate to parade rich and powerful criminal suspects who loot the treasury to the tune of several billions of naira.”
Falana also recalled how the late Afrobeat exponent, Fela Anikulapo, floored the government in court after he was paraded in handcuffs by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for alleged possession of a banned substance.
“Convinced that the agency had caught a big fish the then chairman of the NDLEA, the late Major-General Musa Bamaiyi addressed a press conference wherein he paraded Fela in handcuffs. After the media parade the famous musician slammed a N100 million suit against the NDLEA for violating his fundamental rights to fair hearing, personal liberty and human dignity. As Fela’s parade in handcuffs could not be justified in law the federal high court ordered his unconditional release from further detention.
“Before the suspect’s arraignment at the Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal he had characteristically played a fast one on the NDLEA. At the end of his marathon interrogation he signed the charge sheet but cleverly added ‘in chains’. In opposing the Fela’s application for bail at the tribunal the NDLEA counsel referred the trial judge to his ‘written confessional statement’.
“In my short submission on behalf of the defendant I urged the court to discountenance the statement as it was obtained |in chains” or under duress. Having publicly paraded the suspect in handcuffs the prosecutor could not challenge my submission.
“As the charge could not be proved on the basis of a discredited ‘confessional statement’ the NDLEA was compelled to approach the defence for an amicable resolution of the criminal case. To the embarrassment of the military junta, the NDLEA offered to discontinue the criminal charge and pleaded with Fela to withdraw his civil suit pending at the federal high court.
“When I asked Fela if the proposal was acceptable to him he said, ‘Na good deal as Bamaiyi don beg me’. As soon as Fela’s decision was communicated to the NDLEA the charge was withdrawn and struck out by the tribunal. Thereafter, Fela’s civil case was equally withdrawn. Notwithstanding the incident the NDLEA and other law enforcement agencies have continued to engage in the media trial and parade of criminal suspects.
“To stop the illegal practice we are compelled to call on the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN to order the arrest and prosecution of law enforcement personnel who engage in the media parade, trial and extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects in custody.”
“In this regard, the detained members of the Peace Corps of Nigeria and the Ile Ife 20 who have been paraded by the police Authorities are advised to sue the federal government in the federal high court for aggravated and exemplary damages.”