A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome; and legal practitioner, Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi, have disagreed on an order by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for the transfer of suspects arrested in Kwara State over allegations of murder and criminal conspiracy.
The lawyers made their positions known in separate telephone interviews with Saturday PUNCH on Friday.
The police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, had said the suspects were transferred to Abuja for further investigation in the allegations levelled against them.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is from Kwara State, had claimed on Wednesday during a senate plenary that the suspects’ transfer was part of a grand plot by the Inspector General of Police to frame him.
On whether the IGP’s order for the suspects’ transfer to Abuja was lawful, Falana said it was not unusual for the investigation of criminal cases to be transferred from any of the states of the federation to Abuja, adding that the action would not stop the prosecution of such cases in the states where offences were committed.
According to the SAN, the investigation of cases can be transferred to Abuja “if, for instance, the Inspector General of Police receives a petition that there is manipulation of such cases at the local or zonal level.”
He said, “In this particular instance, since the police claim that these criminal suspects have made confessional statements, the investigation should be speedily concluded so that all those who are indicted are charged to court.
“Under the law, you cannot charge them to court in Abuja, they have to be charged to court where the offence was committed but on a regular basis in Nigeria, every state police command is regularly directed to send case files to Abuja based usually on petitions, either by the complainant or the accused person that manipulation is suspected locally or at the zonal level.
“I have handled cases in Kwara where my clients were referred to Abuja as suspects and that is my experience in all states of the country. But at the end of the every investigation, the case file is sent to the Attorney General of the Federation, who will advise the police to charge to court. If it is a state offence, the suspect will be charged in the state High Court and if it is a federal offence, the suspect will be charged in the appropriate Federal High Court.”
However, Ozekhome said the investigation and prosecution of the case should be done in Kwara State, adding that what he saw playing out in the matter was “very dirty politics.”
He said, “The suspects were arrested in Kwara State for an offence allegedly committed in Kwara and they made their statements in Kwara and the statements made had been taken by the police and the court registry, which said it had proffered first information referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions for necessary legal advice.
“It is within the purview of the DPP of the state to give the legal advice as to whether or not there is a prima facie case established against the alleged cult members, such as to warrant them to be put in the dock for trial. This is a state offence and under the constitution, there are 36 states in Nigeria with a Federal Capital Territory.”
Ozekhome said the story would be more plausible that the suspects were “merely” being taken from Ilorin to Abuja for the purpose of possibly torturing them to alter their statements, “which are already in the public domain anyway, for the purpose of implicating some people.”
“I’m greatly disturbed by the direction of this country, and as we move towards 2019. he asked.
In his opinion, Ajayi described as a dangerous precedent a situation whereby a case already concluded by the police in a state would be reopened by the Inspector General of Police.
The lawyer, however, said highest police authorities had the right to further investigate any case they deemed fit.
Be that as it may, Ajayi said the Inspector General of Police must be transparent and show impartiality in his work.