20th August, 2021.

The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association Jos Branch has sadly been drawn to a statement credited to His Excellency, the Governor of Plateau State Rt. Hon. Barr. Simon Bako Lalong. The statement which has gone viral on print, electronic and social media to the effect that His Excellency has issued a firm instruction to concerned authorities to decline the grant of bail to those arrested in connection to the mob action meted on the Bauchi - Ondo bound commuters, enroute Rukuba Road Jos North LGA, Plateau State. 

In the same vein, the statement categorically gave a marching order to security operatives to arrest any person that seeks to secure the release of such suspects on bail. The relevant statement reads thus: “The rush to bail suspects of unrest when arrested for investigation frustrates efforts to find lasting solution to insecurity in Plateau. Henceforth, people rushing to bail suspects will also be arrested. If you find them, please arrest them. If people rush to bail them, arrest them.” 

It is pertinent to recollect that the Nigerian Bar Association, Jos Branch had in an earlier Press Release issued on 17th August, 2021, roundly condemned the said incident of Saturday, 14th August, 2021 and equally urged on the security operatives to ensure that the perpetrators of such heinous act be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law. The Bar still stands by that and congratulates the security for their timely effort that led to the arrest of about 33 suspects in connection to the upheaval. The Nigerian Bar Association, Jos Branch however frowns at His Excellency’s posture on issue of Bail as per the above statement. Hence the Bar believes that his Excellency might have been quoted grossly out of context on the matter. 

The Jos Bar believes that his Excellency, particularly as a lawyer and an ex-parliamentarian, could not have issued such an instruction, which undermines and encourages the contravention of the principles and tenets of the rule of law and the Nigerian Constitution. The Jos Bar has actually waited anxiously for a retraction, correction or moderation of the statement, but to no avail. The Bar is consequently constrained as vanguard and advocate for enthronement of rule of law, social justice and human rights, to strictly set straight the position of the law on the nuances regarding granting of bail to suspects. 

Bail is a Constitutional matter, which must be strictly adhered to at any giving time. Generally, a suspect is presumed innocent till he is proved guilty. Section 36 (5) CFRN 1999 (as amended), refers. No one shall be treated as guilty of the offence alleged at any time before conviction. Hence, the right to Personal Liberty of suspects under the Constitution stipulates that such a suspect “shall be brought before Court of law within a reasonable time”. Section 35 (4) and (5) refers. The security operatives are required to carry out their investigation with dispatch and within a reasonable time. And where there is ground for it, arraign the suspect before the Court of law, which shall then be required to exercise its discretion judiciously and judicially in consideration of the accused person’s bail application (if any). 

On the other hand, the security operatives/investigating authorities having custody of suspects must not take  pleasure in breaching the fundamental rights of the suspects by prolonged detention. Such suspects must be arraigned in court within a reasonable time to forestall breach of their fundamental right to Personal Liberty. In the light of the above, we wish to state that nobody, particularly suspects’ relatives, can be rightly arrested or threatened with an arrest simply for seeking a suspect’s release on bail; particularly in the guise of suspicion that they are sponsors of the offences alleged.

This will be highly speculative, preposterous and condemnable. We encourage members of the public never to be intimidated or harassed in that respect, as such approach will be wrongful, illegal, unconstitutional and condemnable in any decent society. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Bar Association Jos Branch considers such a posture to be inimical and a direct affront to the freedom of practice of (her) members of the Legal Profession who shall thereby be exposed and made susceptible to being harassed by the security operative in the course of their job. 

The Bar should not be misunderstood to be averse to punishing offenders in deserving cases. Rather, as cautioned in the Bar’s earlier Press Release to the effect that the arrest, investigation and prosecution of suspects should be done with strict regards to citizens’ Fundamental Rights; we emphatically call on the attention of the various security operatives, especially the Nigerian Police to ensure they abide by the relevant provisions of the Constitution, conventions, treatise, other relevant laws, and best practices that uphold and safeguard the dignity of human persons and citizens' right to personal liberty. Anything short of that is not likely to be tolerated by the legal community on the Plateau and anywhere in Nigeria.We call an all concerned to be guided accordingly, please.We continue to pray for the peace of our dear Plateau State and Nigeria at large.

Yakubu S. Bawa, Esq.,

Chairman, NBA Jos Branch.

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