Tope Akinyode, a Nigerian rights lawyer, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have engaged in a debate over how the anti-graft agency parades members of the public arrested on suspicion of financial impropriety.
It all started when a Twitter user, @mrseunlawal charged EFCC to stop parading suspects.
In response, EFCC said it only parades suspects after they have gotten enough evidence from investigations.
The anti-graft agency tweeted, “The EFCC does not pronounce a suspect guilty or otherwise, only the court does.
“However, parading of suspects for their ALLEGED crime is to inform and update the public of the commission’s activities, and it is done within the ambit of law.
“In a fundamental rights suit, Sulyman Abaya Vs. EFCC, Justice Hammed Gegele, of Kwara State High Court, Ilorin, ruled that since the published image has the word, ALLEGED, there is no injury to the suspect’s reputation.”
However, Akinyode described EFCC’s comments as misguided and do not represent what the Nigerian constitution stipulates.
The lawyer tweeted, “It is illegal for security operatives to parade innocent citizens. A suspect (even if caught at the scene of crime) is innocent unless convicted by the court.”
“Media and public parade of suspects have no legitimacy under the Nigerian judicature. The only exception to this is ‘Identification Parade’ which is allowed by law. But there is a clear distinction between media parade and identification parade.
“While media parade is outrightly illegal, identification parade is a matter of legal necessity where the identity of a suspect is in doubt by a prosecution witness.
“So to allay the doubt of a prosecution witness, the real suspect of a crime is placed in a group of people who have striking physical resemblance as the suspect and the police would ask the witness to identify the suspect. This is what identification parade entails.”
Akinyode, while citing the case of Ottoh Obono v. inspector general of police (IGP) in suit no FHC/CA/CS/91/2009, said any suspect who is unjustly paraded before the media can successfully challenge it in court because it violates fundamental right to human dignity.
He added that if the commission fails to desist from media parade of suspects, he would proceed to the court to challenge the “illegality”.
“I’m issuing this public notice to @officialEFCC that it should follow the path of wisdom and desist from media/public parade of suspects henceforth. If the @officialEFCC fails to follow this wise counsel, I shall proceed to Court to challenge the ILLEGALITY,” Akinyode tweeted.