Posted by News Express | 14 October 2018 | 1,350 times
A prominent Non-Governmental Organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has described as a primitive resort to political witch-hunt and vendetta the recently announced travel ban placed on 50 unnamed Nigerians undergoing investigation or prosecutions by anti-graft bodies on charges related to corrupt practices.
HURIWA said that the Nigerian Constitution in section 36 has clearly indicated that even when a citizen is charged before a competent court of law the said individual is presumed innocent in the eye of the law until contrary determination is reached just as the rights group stated categorically that the Executive Order Number 6 which purports to be a policy guideline on the prosecution of suspects accused of hiding foreign-located assets does not have the force of a superior law to supersede the clear and binding provisions of the Constitution which unambiguously affirmed the innocence of a crime suspect pending the determination of the prosecutorial activities of a competent court of law recognised in Section 6 of the Nigerian Constitution.
The group accused President Buhari of attempting to declare a state of emergency by suspending the Constitution which is what the just issued Presidential statement meant when it authorised the profiling of certain Nigerians not yet convicted and to deny them their Constitutionally protected freedoms even when in the eye of the Supreme law of Nigeria they are as innocent as a white dove until a contrary determination is reached not in the Presidential court or court of public opinion but in the COMPETENT COURTS OF LAW AS SPECIFIED IN SECTION 6 OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION OF 1999 (AD AMENDED).
HURIWA lampooned Buhari “for the erroneous interpretation of the ruling of the Federal High Court which validated his power to make general policy frameworks on the fight against corruption subject to the order of the competent court of law.”
The rights group reminded the President that the court couldn’t have unilaterally overruled or nullified the relevant sections of the Constitution which are directly related to the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms such as right to freedom of movement; Civil liberties (section35(1) and other constitutional guaranteed right to fair hearing and the Constitutional presumption of innocence as clearly provided for in the extant constitution which remains the supreme law of Nigeria.
HURIWA said: “For the avoidance of doubts, these are the exact provisions of fair hearing protected under 36(1) which affirmed extensively as follows, ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
“ ‘(2) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, a law shall not be invalidated by reason only that it confers on any government or authority power to determine questions arising in the administration of a law that affects or may affect the civil rights and obligations of any person if such law-
“ ‘(a) provides for an opportunity for the person whose rights and obligations may be affected to make representations to the administering authority before that authority makes the decision affecting that person; and
“ ‘(b) contains no provision making the determination of the administering authority final and conclusive.
“ ‘(3) The proceedings of a court or the proceedings of any tribunal relating to the matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) shall be held in public.
“ ‘(4) Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal:
“ ‘Provided that-
“ ‘(a) a court or such a tribunal may exclude from its proceedings persons other than the parties thereto or their legal practitioners in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, the welfare of persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the protection of the private lives of the parties or to such extent as it may consider necessary by reason of special circumstances in which publicity would be contrary to the interests of justice;
“ ‘(b) if in any proceedings before a court or such a tribunal, a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government of a State satisfies the court or tribunal that it would not be in the public interest for any matter to be publicly disclosed, the court or tribunal shall make arrangements for evidence relating to that matter to be heard in private and shall take such other action as may be necessary or expedient to prevent the disclosure of the matter.
“ ‘(5) Every person who is charged with a 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.
“ ‘(6) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to-
“ ‘(a) be informed promptly in the language that he understands and in detail of the nature of the offence;
“ ‘(b) be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
“ ‘(c)defend himself in person or by legal practitioners of his own choice;
“ ‘(d) examine, in person or by his legal practitioners, the witnesses called by the prosecution before any court or tribunal and obtain the attendance and carry out
the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court or tribunal on the same conditions as those applying to the witnesses called by the prosecution; and
“ ‘(e) have, without payment, the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the offence.
“ ‘(7) When any person is tried for any criminal offence, the court or tribunal shall keep a record of the proceedings and the accused person or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgment in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case.
“ ‘(8) No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed.
“ ‘(9) No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.
“ ‘(10) No person who shows that he has been pardoned for a criminal offence shall again be tried for that offence.
“ ‘(11) No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.
“ ‘(12) Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty, therefore, is prescribed in a written law; and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a law of a state, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.”
The rights group, therefore, dismissed as the greatest manifestation of fascism and a resort to state-sponsored witch-hunt of political opponents of the current President Who is desperately seeking a re-election next year February, the policy which purports to place travel embargoes on 50 Nigerians.
“This flagrant affront to the provisions of the constitution guaranteeing freedoms of movement and abuse of personal liberties as enunciated in the recent press release on the directive of President Buhari to security agencies to enforce Executive Order 6 is simply an act of executive desperation to haunt perceived political opponents who are currently warming up to mount considerable political challenge to President Buhari. The illegal order which is masquerading as a consequence of a Federal High court’s verdict on Executive order 6 is unconstitutional and is a clear attempt at intimidating political rivals of the All Progressives Congress. This illegality must not stand.”
HURIWA recalled that Media office of President Buhari has just circulated the statement announcing the placement of 50 high-profile Nigerians on travel restrictions.
The individuals, whose identities were not disclosed, include those whose assets, valued at N50 million and above, are subject of corruption investigation and litigation.
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