Femi Falana, popular human rights activist, has asked that Abdulrasheed Bawa, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), be released from custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Information Nigeria reports that Bawa has been detained by the DSS for a period of 67 days without any formal charges or court hearing.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, however, urged the Federal Government to file charges against Bawa if there is strong evidence linking them to criminal activity.
Falana who made the request in a statement on Saturday titled, “Release Abdulrasheed Bawa from custody as his remand order has expired,” emphasized that Bawa’s extended detention is in violation of Section 493 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and Section 35 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which prohibit the detention of a criminal suspect for more than 56 days without trial.
The lawyer argued that since no criminal charges have been levied against Bawa, the Service should promptly release him from custody.
“I am not unaware of the claim that Mr Bawa is being detained on the basis of a remand order issued by a Magistrate Court in the Federal Capital Territory.
“It ought to be pointed out that the remand order has become spent, invalid and illegal as no magistrate has the power under section 493 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 or section 35 of the Constitution of Nigeria to authorise the detention of a criminal suspect for 67 days without trial.
“Indeed, under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the cumulative lifespan of a remand order is 56 days. Therefore, having exceeded the detention period permitted by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Constitution of Nigeria, the State Security Service should be directed to release Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa from illegal custody without any further delay,” he said.
According to him, the Federal Government should ensure that the rights of both former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele and Bawa are respected by the State Security Service and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution in the Federal Ministry of Justice, even though the duo had a penchant for disobeying the orders of the courts when they were in office.
He recalled that sometime last month, he had cause to demand the immediate release of Emefiele, the suspended governor of CBN and Bawa from the custody of the Security Service.
“It is public knowledge that Mr Emefiele was recently charged with illegal possession of firearms before the Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“Even though he was granted bail, the State Security Service treated the order of the Court with contempt.
“As the violent invasion of the court coupled with the disobedience of the order of the Court by officials of the State Security Service could not be justified, the Federal Government decided to withdraw the charge of illegal possession of firearms.
“The case was accordingly struck out by the court while Mr Emefiele was charged with some economic crimes at the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
“The plight of both suspects should be a lesson for all public officers in Nigeria who always behave as if there will be no tomorrow.
“However, the Government which rules by law is under a legal obligation not to breach the fundamental rights of citizens except in a manner prescribed by the Constitution of Nigeria,” he added.
Recall also that Emefiele has been in DSS’ custody since June 2023.