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Illegal Firearms Possession: Lawyers, activists demand Emefiele’s immediate release

More lawyers and civil society organizations have condemned the continued detention and illegal firearms charges filed by the Department of State Services (DSS), against suspended governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.


The DSS charge came a day after a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, declared Emefiele’s arrest and detention an infringement of his fundamental rights and subsequently asked that he be released in two days, reports Vanguard.


Some senior lawyers who spoke to Vanguard, condemned Emefiele’s continued detention, despite the orders of the court and demanded for his immediate release.


DSS had no justification to arrest Emefiele — Prof Erugo, SAN


Reacting to the charges against Emefiele, law professor, Sam Erugo, SAN, said: “The charge for illegal possession of firearms is undoubtedly an afterthought; it suggests that the DSS had no justifiable reason to arrest Mr. Emefiele in the first place.


“It means that after the illegal arrest the DSS has been searching for a charge to justify the arrest.


“With all the noise since last year about Emefiele’s crimes affecting national security, it is surprising that DSS will detain him for one month without any charge, and had to wait for court orders before coming up with a spurious charge.


“The action of the DSS is condemnable as a clear affront to the rule of law, and in breach of Emefiele’s fundamental human rights guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution, particularly, his right to personal liberty, fair hearing and freedom of movement.


“Our adversarial system of criminal justice does not permit arrest without credible evidence of a crime committed by the suspect; mere suspicion is not enough, and of course, it is wrong to arrest and start looking to see what crime could be found or charged.


“This is the impression we get of Emefiele’s arrest and detention, and the story about illegal possession of firearm. At any rate, whatever the crime, the rule of law requires DSS to arraign an accused before a court of competent jurisdiction within hours of arrest; they do not have to, and do not have the right to detain a suspect for days just to file any charge to justify the arrest and detention.


“The question we keep asking is, must DSS or other security agencies in Nigeria detain a suspect for long before charging him/ her to the appropriate court where his/her guilt or otherwise will be determined?”


DSS wasting taxpayers’ money — Edun


Also speaking on the issue, former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, said: “I think we should commend the DSS for obeying the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja in charging Emefiele to court.


“I see this move as tactical, probably just to buy more time for them to conclude their investigation, which is taking embarrassingly too long for an agency that made serious allegations about eight months ago that Emefiele was involved in the sponsorship of terrorism and other financial crimes.


“I expected the DSS to do better than this. Filing a charge of unlawful possession of firearms against Emefiele is disrespect to the intelligence community.


Unlawful possession of firearms should not be the kind of case the DSS should be wasting tax payers’ money on.


‘I don’t know how the crime of unlawful possession of firearms allegedly committed by Emefiele would constitute a threat to the security of Nigeria that would warrant the DSS to charter a plane to arrest Emefiele in Lagos and fly him to Abuja.


“Do they give other Nigerians same executive treatment? It’s high time we started calling on security agencies to account for how they utilize public funds, so they don’t abuse their office.


“Unlawful possession of firearms is a matter within the competence of the Police or even the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.”


DSS persecuting Emefiele — Ugwummadu


Former National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, in his reaction, said: “Such knee-jerk approach or response by a front-line law enforcement institution in Nigeria leaves a sour test in our mouths.


“Mr. Emefiele may have been alleged to commit serious malfeasance and suffered avoidable policy somersaults that plunged the country and citizens into serious chaos and hardship yet, the 1999 Constitution is clear under S. 287(3) on the status of decisions and judgments of courts in Nigeria and the responsibilities of every person, institution and authority to obey and enforce the judgments of courts.


“The only option available to the DSS after the judgment of the court was to bring an application to set it aside on certain recognisable grounds or outrightly appeal the decision. Pending that, it remains a valid judgment of court and bound to be obeyed.


“Mr. Emefiele’s constitutional rights to fair hearing under S. 36 of the 1999 Constitution was abridged when he was not arraigned before a competent court of law within 24 hours of his arrest.


“The DSS reserves the right to charge him with any offence within their purview at any time.


However in the circumstance that this has happened, one can see persecution rather than genuine prosecution.


“It comes across as a political witch hunt. It’s gradually becoming reminiscent of the Dasuki experience and does not augur well for the Tinubu’s administration.”


Court illegal detention order subsists — ASUQUO


Another lawyer, Koko Asuquo, said: “The DSS cannot detain him more than the constitutionally allowed period without obtaining a court order to that effect. That is why the court had already declared his detention to be null and void before he was charged to court.”


Emefiele’s detention is witch-hunt- UTIJ Pan-Nigerian advocacy group, United for Truth, Integrity and Justice Inc., UTIJ, described the development as pure witchhunt. The group expressed its disappointment and rejection of the modus operandi of the DSS in a press statement issued by its Executive Director, Prince Uneke Ekwaogbu, and Secretary, Musa Abubakar.


“The DG DSS should resign from office or be suspended by President Tinubu for persecuting Emefiele and the inability to produce evidence to back up his over six months allegation of terrorism against him.


“The DSS should, as a matter of urgency and natural justice, free Emefiele from its detention, and obey the rule of law.


“The DSS should also stop tainting Tinubu’s rule of law records with illegal detention of Emefiele without evidence to back the frivolous allegation,” the group said.


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