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ILLEGALITY OF THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF MONDAY UBANI ESQ
The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria, Directorate of Anti-Corruption & Rule of Law and Good Governance (CLASFON-DARG) joins the rest of the World to condemn the incessant harassment of Legal Practitioners in general and the continued detention of Mr. Monday Ubani, a former 2nd Vice President of the NBA, in particular by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
We are deeply concerned that in spite of the fact that a competent Court of law had made a valid Order directing the EFCC to charge Mr. Ubani to Court on or before March 28, 2019 or release him from detention, in furtherance of their penchant for abuse of power and outright lawlessness, the EFCC has held on to him without arraigning him and in defiance to the time-honored principle of the rule of law. This precarious development has put Mr. Ubani’s health in grave danger as he is reported to have fainted after suffering severe dehydration and high blood pressure, having been subjected to unwarranted physical, psychological and emotional trauma. We like to remind the EFCC that it is a creature of law and it is bound by the Constitution and other laws of the Land that guarantees the right of every Nigerian to liberty. The prolonged and continued incarceration of Mr. Ubani in EFCC custody without trial cannot take cover under the exception in Section 35(1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution as the length of time already spent in custody without an arraignment is unreasonable and untenable.
We have taken notice of the reported unconstitutional practice by the EFCC of demanding that lawyers stand as sureties for their clients before they can be released on bail. This practice amounts to arm-twisting and is highly condemnable and smacks of nothing but cheap blackmail of members of the legal profession. The action of EFCC in arresting Mr. Ubani in lieu of his client who is the suspect negates all established norms of administration of justice. Specifically, Section 7 of the Administration of Justice Act prohibits the arrest of any person in lieu of a suspect. Our view of the law is that where a surety fails or is unable to produce a suspect, as alleged in this case, the recognizance is simply a bond giving rise to a civil debt with a special enforcement procedure requiring the surety to show cause, which is civil in nature. There is nothing criminal about the procedure and the continued detention of Mr. Ubani is unconstitutional, illegal and smacks of highhandedness.
Even in countries where democracy is not practised, the rights of the citizens are secured and preserved; it is therefore very sad that our democracy is on trial and the rule of law which forms the fulcrum of orderliness and decency in every sane society is seriously under threat in Nigeria. It is imperative to note that Mr. Ubani is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court. Therefore, if there is any other allegation against him apart from the fact that his client breached her bail terms, let him be charged to court. Let the court pronounce on the merit of the case. This Directorate stands for compliance with and promotion of the Rule of Law and will not relent in advocating for same and engaging with the Government or any of her agencies that is bent on trampling on due process.
In saner climes, governments and their agencies work with great respect for the rule of law but the reverse is beginning to take the centre stage in Nigeria. We urge all to keep faith, soldier on, and continue to speak to those in power that the non-observance of global protocols is reprehensible. We say once again that the rule of law upon which the principles of justice, equity, and good governance stand is seriously being eroded by the barbaric actions of the EFCC and by the continued detention of our colleague without trial as it amounts to a gross violation of his Constitutional right which is our supreme law. Assuming without conceding that Mr. Ubani breached the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners by standing surety for his client as alleged, prolonged detention or detention at all in EFCC custody is not the punishment for such breach. If EFCC has a case in that regard, it should make representations to the appropriate authorities officially and quit hiding under the Rules of Professional Conduct to commit grievous constitutional infractions. Such antics with colourations of blackmail cannot fly.
We, therefore, call on the authorities at the EFCC and demand for the immediate unconditional release and or arraignment of Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani before a competent court to enable him to attend to his failing and deteriorating health conditions.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Director, Anti-Corruption & Rule of Law and Good
Directorate Secretary, Anti-Corruption & Rule of Law and Good