Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Federal High Court sitting Abuja yesterday adjourned the suit filed by a former Commissioner for Information, Abia State, Dr. ACB Agbazuere, challenging some sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to May 25 for hearing.
Agabazuere had joined the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the National Assembly in the suit.
Agbazuere is challenging some sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 which he contended were contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended).
At the resumed hearing yesterday, counsel to the AGF, Babatunji Coker, and that of National Assembly, S.T Yenge brought separate Preliminary Objections to the suit.
The trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole after listening to parties in the suit adjourned till May 25 for hearing.
In the suit, Agbazuere is asking the court to determine whether the provisions of section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to the effect that a court may require the deposit of sum of money or other security as the court may specify from the defendant or his surety before bail is approved, is not inconsistent with the provisions of section 36 (5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), to the effect that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
In a 17-paragraph affidavit he deposed to in support of the suit, Agbazuere averred that the provisions of the new law run contrary to the 1999 Constitution and that if allowed to exist means a Nigerian citizen who has no money or other security will be deprived of his right to bail and will not have his bail approved and will therefore be sent to prison until he/she pays the money when he/she is yet to be tried for the offence.
In the suit he argued that: “The law is settled that the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme and if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be void by virtue of section 1(1) and (3) of the constitution
“That applicability of section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Act, 2015 will deprive Nigerian citizens of their liberty, freedom and fair hearing.
“ With section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the accused is to pay money before his bail can be approved when the prosecution has neither proved the essential ingredients of the case not has the accused been found guilty.
“By providing for the mandatory payment of money before bail is approved, section 165(2) of the Act has now presumed every person guilty when he has not been tried and found guilty. It is an aberration and ambush against the people and should not be allowed to stand.
“At a time when the level of poverty in Nigeria is so alarming that the President has declared that Nigeria is broke and states cannot pay salaries to workers except with the aid of bailout funds (which are also loans), any legislation imposing payment of money on Nigerian citizens before their bail is approved is not only inconsistent with the intendment of section 36 (5) of the constitution but also a bad law as it is anti people.”