The federal government has not acted against the law by detaining beyond 48 hours persons indicted of mismanaging security funds, a senior Nigerian lawyer has said.
Femi Falana said contrary to concerns raised by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and some legal practitioners that the federal government is acting with impunity by detaining some beyond 48 hours, the rights of the suspects have not been violated in any way.
In a statement released on Sunday, Mr. Falana said the government has handled the investigation within the ambit of the law so far.
The immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, alongside the former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, the founder of DAAR Communications PLC, Raymond Dokpesi, and a former Chairman of the defunct Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety (PICOMMS), Salihu Atawodi, have been detained beyond the statutory 48 hours by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, in connection with the probe of how billions of dollars meant for arms procurement was spent.
Mr. Falana said the complaints that their rights have been violated are merely ploy to divert the attention of the public from “the grave allegations” of recklessly diverting public funds meant for arms procurement.
He said the suspects’ “arrest and continued detention was in line with section 293 – 299 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA).
“The attention of the ‘critics’ ought to be drawn to sections 293-299 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) which stipulate that a suspect arrested for an offence which a magistrate has no jurisdiction to try, shall within a reasonable time, be brought before a magistrate court for remand,” he stated.
“The order which shall be for a period not exceeding 14 days may be further extended provided that if the investigation is not concluded within 28 days the court may summon the appropriate authority to show cause why the suspect should not be unconditionally released.
“Suspects who are remanded in custody are at liberty to ask for bail or apply to the appropriate high court to secure the enforcement of their fundamental right to personal liberty.
“In view of the clear and unambiguous provisions of the law it is misleading to insist that a magistrate court lacks the power to grant the application filed by the EFCC for the detention of the criminal suspects.
He therefore called on the government not to buckle to pressure of people he said have lost their sense of shame and would rather the accused are left off the hook.
“As corruption is already mobilizing to fight back, the Buhari administration should ignore the reckless campaign of calumny of certain people who have lost their sense of shame. As far as they are concerned the suspects should be left alone to enjoy their loot while soldiers are losing their precious lives due to lack of adequate weapons.
“The federal government should ensure that all individuals and corporate bodies indicted in the criminal diversion of public funds are made to face the full wrath of the law.
“The anti graft agencies should disregard the cheap blackmail, speed up the investigation and charge all indicted suspects to court while the courts are enjoined to conduct the trial of the suspects under the ACJA which requires that the trials be conducted day by day,” he said.
Mr. Falana suggested that government should set up a dedicated account where they money would be recovered from the suspects would be kept and used to procure equipment for the military and create job for unemployed Nigerian youth as well as build and repair decapitated public infrastructure.
Mr. Falana further stated that the funds that was allegedly misappropriated was not $2.1 billion as erroneously reported in the media but $2.1 billion plus N643 billion, which bring the total fund to $6 billion.
“The actual amount stolen is $2.1 billion and N643 billion. The total missing fund is $6 billion, he said.
Mr. Falana, who was counsel to some soldiers sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram with inadequate equipment said it was only proper for the government to release the detained soldiers following revelations of how the monies meant for the purchase of arms were spent.
“In the light of the earth-shaking and ear-aching revelations oozing out of the EFCC to the effect that a handful of individuals cornered and shared the huge fund earmarked for the procurement of military hardware to prosecute the war on terror, all the convicted military officers and soldiers who have been convicted including the 70 who were sentenced to death should be released forthwith.
“As I have repeatedly maintained the soldiers were committed and sentenced to death for asking for weapons to fight the terrorists. They were ordered to fight with unserviceable equipment on the ground that there was no money to purchase new weapons. In the process, the well-equipped insurgents routed and massacred thousands of the country’s ill-equipped soldiers due to the diversion of the fund set aside to purchase equipment.
“The suspects must bear full responsibility for committing such grave crimes against humanity.
“Consequently, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 we have applied for a certified true copy of the report of the arms procurement panel with a view to ensuring that some of the suspects are prosecuted by the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity,” he said.