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‘Illegal Custody’: DSS Must Release Bawa Without Delay, Says Femi Falana

He urged the FG to ensure that the rights of Bawa and Emefiele are respected.

Femi Falana, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has said that the State Security Service (SSS) should release the suspended chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, from what he termed “illegal custody.”

In a statement released on Sunday titled “The State Security Service Should Release Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic And Financial Crimes Commission From Illegal Custody Forthwith”, Falana said that he had, in the previous month, demanded for the release of Bawa and Godwin Emefiele, the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), or, if they were to be kept in custody, to charge them with the crimes that they had committed, so as to avoid a violation of the rights of both men by detaining them without proper charge. However, he said that while Emefiele was charged, Bawa had not been charged, and was still being kept in custody, and as such, he called for Bawa’s immediate release. 

Falana’s statement read, “It is public knowledge that Mr. Emefiele was recently charged with illegal possession of firearms before the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court. Even though he was granted bail, the State Security Service treated the order of the Court with contempt. As the violent invasion of the court coupled with the disobedience of the order of the Court by officials of the State Security Service could not be justified, the Federal Government decided to withdraw the charge of illegal possession of firearms. The case was accordingly struck out by the court while Mr. Emefiele was charged with grave economic crimes at the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.  

“However, in view of the fact that Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa has not been charged with any criminal offence whatsoever, the State Security Service ought to have released him from custody. I am not unaware of the claim that Mr. Bawa is being detained on the basis of a remand order issued by a Magistrate Court in the Federal Capital Territory.  It ought to be pointed out that the remand order has become spent, invalid and illegal as no magistrate has the power under section 493 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 or section 35 of the Constitution of Nigeria to authorise the detention of a criminal suspect for 67 days without trial.

“Indeed, under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the cumulative lifespan of a remand order is 56 days. Therefore, having exceeded the detention period permitted by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Constitution of Nigeria, the State Security Service should be directed to release Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa from illegal custody without any further delay. 

“The Federal Government should ensure that the rights of Messrs Emefiele and Bawa are respected by the State Security Service and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution in the Federal Ministry of Justice, even though the duo had a penchant for disobeying the orders of the courts, when they were in office. The plight of both suspects should be a lesson for all public officers in Nigeria who always behave as if there will be no tomorrow.  However, the Government which rules by law is under a legal obligation not to breach the fundamental rights of citizens except in a manner prescribed by the Constitution of Nigeria.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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