Why I barred magistrates from issuing remand warrant – Bello

By The Citizen

Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Ter‎ritory (FCT), Abuja, Justice Ishaq Bello, has cleared the air on his recent directive barring magistrates under his jurisdiction from issuing remand warrant on cases brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Bello had, during his visit to the Keffi Medium Prison in Nasarawa State on January 12 faulted the practice where magistrates in the FCT grant remand orders in cases which they lacked the jurisdiction to try.

He directed the magistrates, who were part of his entourage to the prison to desist from entertaining cases on which they lacked jurisdiction, including money laundering cases often brought before them by the EFCC, with the aim of procuring remand warrant.

Justice Bello, while speaking on Friday, at the resumed hearing in the case involving the spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, said his directive was not directed solely at the EFCC, but to prevent an abuse of such power by the magistrates.

He said his position was informed by what he saw at the prison, where he noticed that the problem of long remand of suspects, which had been effectively addressed in the past, was discovered to be rearing its head again.

Justice Bello said he discovered that many were now being remanded for a period as long as four years on the orders of magistrate's courts, for offences which, even the FCT High Court, not to talk of magistrates, lacked jurisdiction to handle.

'Many of them were remanded for terrorism which not even triable by FCT High Court.

'Some of them were on record to have been in remand for four months but when the person came to me, he said, no 'I have been here for four years. This was taking us back to the gloomy days,' Justice Bello said.

He said his directive was to prevent the situation from degenerating, stating that 'We cannot allow things to go haywire. We cannot allow the degeneracy.'

Justice Bello urged the EFCC and other anti-graft and security agencies to always approach the High Court for orders for the remand of a suspect instead of going to the magistrate courts, which lacked jurisdiction to entertain most of the cases usually handled by them.

'I said on no account should a case which the magistrate's courts do not have jurisdiction on be filed before the magistracy. The cases being handled by the EFCC and the ICPC (the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission) are part of those cases.

'But commentators, who in my view are doing their best to contribute to the development of the criminal justice system singled out EFCC as if it is the target of the directive.' The Nation