A group, the Citizens’ Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), has called on the Federal Government to immediately caution the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from giving the wrong impression that criminal charges are being filed in Nigeria against some citizens on account of “mere political expediency or personal vindictiveness, by some operators of the government who are using state privilege to settle political scores”.
The group, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. Frank Tietie, on Monday noted that the recent warrant of arrest secured by the EFCC against former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, was an oppressive instrument against the right of the former AGF to be free from persecution in his home country despite his declared innocence by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The warrant, the group added, was in defiance of clear judicial pronouncements which paint Nigeria as a country with a lot of judicial uncertainty, and characterized by state desperation to harrass and disregard the human rights of citizens perceived to be political opponents.
The statement reads further: “(CASER) notes with a serious sense of concern, the desperate attempts by some persons using the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to harrass and embarrass the highly respectable person of the former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Honourable Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN.
“It amounts to a violation of a citizen’s fundamental right to fair hearing when it becomes clear that the judicial process, is being used as a means to oppress, harrass and punish a citizen, even when he is clearly innocent, by making him to go through the humiliation of unnecessary criminal trial that cannot pass the test of independence and impartiality, as required of the courts by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Altered).
“That is reason why the Supreme Court held in the case of *Ikomi & Ors V. The State* (1986) 3NWLR (pt. 28), per Aniagolu, JSC that:
“ ….no citizen should be put to the rigours of trial in a criminal proceeding, unless available evidence points prima facie, to his complicity in the commission of a crime. In the protection of a citizen’s right not to be unnecessarily harassed by criminal prosecution, the law enjoins a Magistrate in a preliminary inquiry or a Judge consenting under S. 340 to a summary trial of an indictable offence, to be satisfied that the evidence there is establishes a prima facie case against the citizen.”
“Our worry at CASER stems from the dangerous precedent that is being set in defiance of an Order of the Federal High Court which has unequivocally declared that the former AGF is free from any wrong doing on the fact that he was simply obeying a presidential directive to implement the OPL 245 Settlement Agreement of 2011 as instructed by the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
“Specifically, Justice Binta Nyako declared in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/446/2017 that Mr Adoke :
“… _cannot be held personally liable for carrying out the lawful directives/approvals of the President while he served as a Minister of the Government of the Federation.”
“Therefore, to put the former Honourable Attorney General of the Federation through an unnecessarily humiliating and horrendous trial by ordeal as we have witnessed in the recent cases involving some judicial officers, is most unacceptable to us as a group of human rights defenders….
“Noting therefore, that everything should done by well meaning authorities and persons within Nigeria and in the international community, to ensure that the regime of unfair trial and abuse of the Nigerian criminal justice system is discouraged and refused any form of cooperation in order to protect the fundamental rights of these affected citizens, to a fair and just judicial process that is devoid of political vindictiveness with an oppressive legal environment of uncertainty in the protection of basic human rights.
“We call on the former AGF to employ every legal means to resist the abusive use of the judicial process to stifle and detract him from enjoying his rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.
“We at CASER firmly believe that the former AGF is being unnecessarily persecuted and that he is indeed free from wrong doing. This is the position of the Federal High Court with regards to Mr Adoke in the whole matter of OPL 245.
“Therefore, where possible, we shall on our own ensure by every means legal, that no injustice is committed against the former AGF particularly, with regards to his legally guaranteed human rights as a citizen of Nigeria”.