ABUJA BOMB BLASTS: SSS HAS NO POWERS TO PROSECUTE SUSPECTS â€“ NBA
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the weekend said the State Security Services (SSS) lacked the powers under the law to prosecute the suspected masterminds of the twin bomb blasts on Independence Day in Abuja.
Besides, the body of lawyers has raised alarm, saying the decision of the service to conduct a secret trial of the suspects is capable of bungling the entire proceedings and rendering it a nullity under the criminal law.
Meanwhile, the association has resolved to report the presiding Chief Magistrate Oyebola Oyewumi to the chairman of the Federal Capital Territory Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for engaging in a judicial proceeding where it was apparent that her court was barricaded and counsel to the suspects were excluded from the trial.
President of the NBA, Joseph Daudu (SAN) raised the alarm in Abuja during the inauguration of three committees that would facilitate the execution of NBA programmes in the areas of legal education, rule of law and editorial board.
Seven suspects of the bomb blasts were on Thursday charged before an Abuja chief magistrate's court in a proceeding that was shrouded in secrecy.
While condemning the secrettrial of the suspects, the NBA said: 'The implication of the conduct of these overzealous or misguided operatives is manifold.
'Firstly, denial of right to counsel is a grave breach of the accused's fundamental right as well as an assault of the due process of law. It is a monumental embarrassment to the trial procedure in Nigeria that our officials can by such misbehaviour taint a bona fide criminal proceeding irretrievable.
'Secondly, the exclusion of journalists from criminal proceedings no matter how serious deprives Nigerians of their right to freedom of information.
'Thirdly, the magistrate ought not to have engaged in judicial proceedings, where it was apparent that his court had been barricaded, and counsel excluded. What she has unwittingly acceded to is to render the entire proceedings a force devoid of the minimum standards of a criminal trial.
'Fourthly, the State Security Services cannot act as policemen or prosecutors in a criminal trial. There is, according to the constitution, only one police force. The SSS cannot and is not a police force. This action is hereby confounded. We hope that there will be no repeat of this ludicrous incident.'
On the political turf, the group said the removal of a former governor from office, on account of an electoral dispute, does not nullify his tenure as decisions or actions made by them are constitutionally valid.
The NBA president contended that the declaration of nullity by a person who has no judicial powers may portend or promote political disharmony and chaos not contemplated by the constitution.
His words: 'It has become fashionable for political office holders whose elections were validated by courts to declare that the term spent by their predecessors ousted by court order are nullities. Such incorrect legal statements give cause for concern. We have stated over time that the reversal of an election by the court is acceptable because the constitution permits, so is the process of appeal and the declaration of the initial result by INEC.
'They are valid because it is part of an accepted constitutional process. The declaration of nullity by a person who has no judicial powers may portend or promote political disharmony and chaos not contemplated by the constitution. Read literally, such calls may stretch to unbearable limits such as the revocation of contracts awarded during the tenure of the person removed.'