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EFCC, Balogun & human rights

Posted by The Punch on 2005/07/11 | Views: 331 |

EFCC, Balogun & human rights


On Wednesday, June 29, 2005, the former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, was reportedly treated in a manner many have condemned as brutal and dehumanizing by policemen attached to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the premises of an Abuja High Court.

On Wednesday, June 29, 2005, the former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, was reportedly treated in a manner many have condemned as brutal and dehumanizing by policemen attached to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the premises of an Abuja High Court.

The agency arraigned Balogun in court on April 4 to face several charges of theft and money laundering running into billions of naira while in office. Following a brief disagreement between the ex-IG and EFCC policemen after the June 29 court session, reports said the law enforcement officers pounced on Balogun, slapped, shoved, kicked and dragged him on the bare floor. The wounded former IG was said to have slumped after recounting his ordeal to the presiding judge, Justice Salisu Garuba. The judge had ordered that Balogun be brought back to the courtroom after the incident.

The alleged brutality reportedly compelled Justice Garuba to grant the accused bail on self recognition. Some minutes before the unfortunate incident, however, the judge had ruled that Balogun would only be granted bail on very tough conditions. The former IG is currently hospitalized and nursing injuries.

The EFCC chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, in his response to the incident, described the embarrassing human right violation as a “drama”. Ribadu claimed that the video clips of the assault at his disposal did not indicate that his men brutalized Balogun. He said the scuffle was part of the antics to scuttle the trial. Indeed, Ribadu suspects that the alleged brutalization was intended to create a window for Balogun to travel overseas and escape the trial.

On Monday, April 4, 2005, the EFCC was likewise widely criticized over the former IG’s appearance in court in handcuffs. The Commission publicly apologized over the incident, saying Balogun was handcuffed as a symbolic gesture signifying the individual’s subjection to law enforcement and a restatement of the EFCC slogan that no one is above the law.

It is disturbing that the EFCC is being accused of brutality and dehumanizing treatment against Balogun again, after the handcuffs saga. Also distressing is the fact that what ought to be a swift and serious trial is now being trivialised by avoidable distractions capable of swinging public sympathy fully for the accused, thereby undermining the severity of the offense.

In truth, corruption is one national scourge that must be decisively tackled to release public funds for development and poverty reduction. Yet, if Tafa has stolen public funds as is being alleged by the EFCC, the universal principle of criminal justice is that an accused is deemed innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction declares otherwise. Besides, relevant portions of Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution provide that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and no person shall be unjustly subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

And though the EFCC has accused Balogun of delaying the trial, the Commission itself has not helped matters by the countless charges it has brought against the former police boss. They were 70 when Balogun was first arraigned. Now the charges are 92 with chances of more coming. How wise is it to be compiling fresh charges when plea has not been taken on the ones in court? Is it not high time the EFCC put its acts together to ensure a speedy trial?

The Commission must guard against any further blunders capable of diminishing the importance of the Balogun trial. It should learn to do its job in line with due process and global understanding of the rule of law. The sudden bail granted the former IG on self recognition by Justice Garuba is enough lesson that even a good case can be lost through avoidable recklessness.

The Punch, Monday, July 11, 2005

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Comments (3)

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Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

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Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

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Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown