Looters: Charge to court or release unconditionally – NBA

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has said that hundreds of persons arrested and detained by the Nigeria Police on the suspicion of taking part in the looting and destruction over the #EndSARS protests, should be charge to court or release unconditionally, while detaining them beyond 24-48hours is unlawful and prohibited.

The President of NBA, Olumide Akpata disclosed this on his official social platform on Thursday, he said he has received several calls and complaints from lawyers and Nigerians, as legal rights of citizens who are arrested on account of such allegations must be respected, especially their right to presumption of innocence.

According to him, “As I have continuously maintained that the Nigerian Bar Association is completely opposed to any act of arson, vandalism, destruction of public or private assets or other forms of force or violence.

“If not, most of these cases, these people, who are first and foremost Nigerian citizens, have been held incommunicado for days without access to their families or their legal practitioners and under inhumane or deplorable conditions in brazen breach of the Constitution”, he said.

Akpata added that Constitution presumes all suspects and defendants as innocent until proven guilty; prohibits the detention of citizens beyond 24-48 hours; and forbids the subjection of Nigerian citizens to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Above all, the Constitution mandates the Police and other law enforcement agencies to bring such persons to court within 24-48 hours depending on the location of the court nearest to the Police station”.

He emphasized that this conduct by men of the Nigeria Police is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protests, which were precipitated by the historical abuse of citizens by Police officers especially those of the now defunct SARS, and the aftermath of which is yet to fully settle.

“It is highly regrettable that the Police in particular continues to carry on business as usual despite being in the eye of the storm in recent times and in disregard of the wide outpouring of condemnation by Nigerians at home and abroad.

“Also as well as foreign nationals and international organisations about the misconduct of some of their officers. This gives the indication that the Police hierarchy has failed to get the message and/or is paying lip service to the calls for holistic Police reforms”, he added.

He called on the Nigerian Police and the Attorneys General of the various States to immediately charge the suspects before courts of competent jurisdiction in accordance with contemporary requirements of the law or release them unconditionally.

“The wanton destructive of public buildings and private businesses witnessed in the past week is highly regrettable. However, the cure for illegality cannot be illegality”, he said.

He instructed Chairpersons of NBA Branches across the country to immediately monitor Police Stations within their jurisdictions to ascertain the extent of compliance of the Police with the fundamental rights provisions to enable the association take or facilitate adequate enforcement actions.

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