A foremost human rights group, Arewa Right Agenda (ARA), has advised the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, to tread with caution on the threat to file an action against a lawyer, Mr. Nnamdi Nwokocha, for out-of-court comments he made in regards to the pending suit on President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate.
The group stated this in a statement signed by its Executive Secretary, Mahmud Bello, and made available to THISDAY yesterday, saying such threat was an ironic twist of developments, especially coming from the presidential aide “who has been equally guilty of the same conduct which he now complains about.”
ARA described as ironical, the statement by Garba where he said: “It is ‘unfair’ for plaintiff who is a litigant in a case pending in court to ‘hijack” the power of a judge by declaring the president guilty of what he is accused of on the pages of newspapers.”
The group stated that Graba is also guilty of the same error when he “meticulously bombarded the newspaper and internet media with proclamations of the “guilt” of the former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex S. Badeh (rtd), in a matter the trial of which is currently pending in court.
“Conveniently, Garba did not find this to be ‘inappropriate and unprofessional’ practice. Nor has he ever uttered a word condemning the uncharitable employment of the media by governmental agencies in conducting media trials of pending criminal matters with its attendant consequences of potential deprivation individual liberty in the event of a conviction.
“It is a fact of indubitable notoriety that in the ongoing prosecution of persons in connection with the war against corruption, the trial by media has been an indispensable tool employed by the prosecutorial agencies in affecting the public perception of these accused persons. In fact, the SSA Media and Publicity himself has championed this uncharitable and irresponsible regime of trial by media by heedlessly commenting on matters which are sub judice.”
The statement therefore cautioned that “The constitutional doctrine of the right to fair hearing is fundamental. More so, when the issue involves the trial of accused persons in a criminal matter. The repugnance of trial by media should be consistently condemned by all and sundry, especially the SSA Media and Publicity, Garba because of its potential ability to “hijack” matters which are pending before courts of competent jurisdiction.
“This notion of selectively condemning extrajudicial comments only when it affects the interest we represent should be completely and unapologetically discouraged.
“Therefore, we urged our amiable presidential aide to know that what is good for the goose should necessarily be good for the gander.”