A prominent Non-Governmental organization- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to ensure that the military operatives are not misused by Federal government office holders from Rivers and other states to manipulate the March 9th 2019 governorship and State Assembly elections nation- wide.
HURIWA said her members on ground in Rivers State have reported that Federal appointees are apparently parading about with massive numbers of armed security forces thus threatening the peace of the State and unduly harassing civilians.
HURIWA has also decided to approach the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and international community through their representatives in Nigeria to investigate allegations that houses of 50 top members of the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP) IN Rivers State have been destroyed and many of these political opposition leaders arrested by soldiers.
HURIWA has also asked the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to order the release of all the political opposition members so arrested if any and to deal with those who destroyed the housing assets of PDP leaders in Rivers State. The Rights group said it is because of her belief in constructive partnership with statutory institutions to improve and human rights that has motivated it to constructively and meaningfully engage the hierarchies of the armed security forces to continue to sustain professionalism and adherence to the Principle of law of law and to protect constitutional democracy from threats by reactionary elements. HURIWA said the Nigerian Army is administered professionally and therefore must not tolerate impunity and lawlessness by its operatives or officers no matter the status.
HURIWA in a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf cautioned law enforcement agencies to stop parading suspects or subjecting them to media persecution just as the Rights group faulted the recent parade of some politicians in Rivers State by the military over their alleged involvement in election related bribery scam. HURIWA said the legal principle in Nigeria is such that presumes that all suspected offenders are innocent until proven guilty. “Only the courts of competent jurisdiction in line with section 6 of the Nigerian constitution can reach a determination in all cases and accusations just as it stated that media trials are antithetical to modernism, legalism and Rule of Law but amounts to lynch mob justice”.
HURIWA stated thus: “We are aware and we believe that the Army being a professional institution knows that the presumption of innocence is the legal principle in criminal cases that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. This basically means that until a judicial pronouncement on the guilt or otherwise of the accused person is made, he/she is to be treated the same as a regular person; any suggestion to the opposite would be a breach of the Fundamental Human Rights of the individual.”
“The Nigerian 1999 Constitution in Section 36(5) guarantees this right. The practicalities of what this means for you as an individual if you are charged with a crime under Nigerian law, is that if for any reason you are discriminated against because of the fact that you are facing a court case, then you can sue for breach of your Fundamental Human Rights.”
“The other element to the presumption of innocence is that the burden of proving the guilt of the accused person is on the prosecution. The prosecution is given the responsibility of producing enough evidence and arguments to prove the guilt of criminal defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. No matter what indictment or formal charges are brought against the defendant, and no matter what the personal feelings of those involved may be, if government prosecution cannot decisively demonstrate the defendant’s guilt in trial then that person is legally “not guilty” and free to go.”
“36. (5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts. “
His Lordship AGUBE JCA in ALI V. STATE (2012) 10 NWLR PT. 1309 P. 624 PARA D-E
It is trite law that an accused is presumed innocent until his guilt is established by credible evidence. The presumption of innocence is a constitutional right of every person as provided in section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states that: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty”. In Nigeria, personal liberty of everyone is guaranteed and can only be deprived in exceptional circumstances. These exceptional circumstances are in Sections 35(1) (a-f) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Though this personal liberty guaranteed under the constitution can be deprived in exceptional circumstances, such accused person is not supposed to be detained for an undeterminable or endless period. The Nigerian constitution makes provision for bail.
HURIWA has also called for peaceful conduct of the poll and called on the police to arrest and prosecute violators of extant electoral law. “The intimidation and harassment of Igbo voters outside of Igbo land is hereby absolutely condemned. INEC must behave in line with the law and must not repeat the spectacular ethical crimes and criminal manipulations that happened in the last Presidential and National Assembly’s Elections.”