Former secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch, Sulyman Abaya, has said that he was forced at gunpoint to carry a placard with the inscription of alleged criminal conspiracy, forgery and fraud at the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
It is recalled that the Ilorin zonal office of the anti-graft agency had last Wednesday accused the legal practitioner of defrauding one Pastor Adetunji Adedoyin of his property valued at N20million.
Speaking with journalists at the Ilorin NBA house on Monday, Abaya said that he was coerced at gun point by no fewer than two police officers at the EFCC office when he resisted and protested for more than an hour against carrying the placard against his will.
He also said that his photograph was uploaded on the commission’s social media page immediately it was taken, adding that the action jettisoned his fundamental human rights of being heard in the court of law over the allegation of the N20million fraud.
Abaya, who described the treatment as unwarranted and unconstitutional, demanded a public apology in the dailies, as he said that staff of the commission had been calling to apologize for their misdeeds.
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“While at the EFCC custody, I clearly stated my story in connection with the case as narrated above but despite my explanations and notwithstanding that I was not confronted with any document I allegedly forged, or any allegation that I collected any amount of money from anybody or received any amount of money on behalf of anybody in connection with the case, the officers of EFCC threatened and forced me against my will to carry placard and took my photograph which they later uploaded on the internet.
“The whole world has undoubtedly seen me carrying a placard. Please retake a deep look at that picture and you will see that it was hesitantly carried with one hand. For more than one hour, I resisted and protested the carrying of the placard but EFCC called on two of her mobile policemen who pointed a gun at me and coerced me to carry it. As soon as the picture was taken, EFCC released me together with my car.
“I want to state categorically and contrary to the EFCC allegations that I did not conspire with anybody, impersonate anybody and or forge any document in order to defraud the said Pastor Adedoyin of his property at any point in my life. This fact can be confirmed from Mr Victor Okoji, Esq who is said to be Engr. Adedoyins lawyer.
In his reaction to the development, the NBA chairman, Muhammed Idowu Akande, stressed that the legal body is ready to support his member to seek redress over the alleged ill-treatment meted Abaya.
He added that the NBA had constituted a legal team that will look into the issue, stressing that the agency will subsequently be dragged before State or Federal High Court for the bridge of fundamental human right.
“The action of the EFCC is condemnable, four legal practitioners were involved in the matter but I will limit myself to two whom I’ve had the privilege to meet because the two others are still in EFCC custody. While I was at the NBA conference in Lagos, I received a call that Mr Abaya has been arrested at the high court premises in a commando-style.
“I was seriously disturbed over what he might have done, so I couldn’t wait till the end of the conference. I was shocked when I saw his photograph on the twitter handle of Mr Ibrahim Magu, the EFCC boss, and three other lawyers from Ilorin branch carrying placards that display their names and the alleged offences. When I saw it, I knew there was more to it because justice is not a game of hide and seek.
“I did an investigation into the matter, I met the lawyer who instituted the case, Dr Ariyoosu, I saw the judgment, the file and the role played Mr Abaya, he only had three appearances in the matter. As the Bar, we’re not saying we are perfect, any lawyer found wanting can be prosecuted but we won’t allow any organisation no matter highly influence to intimidate us or punish the innocent.
“This action is highly condemnable, I also frowned at the act of displaying suspect carrying placard online, the EFCC has already condemned such a person in the public court because public opinion will be against him, this negates the constitution particularly chapter 4 (36) of the 1999 constitution which presumed every Nigerian innocent of an allegation against him.
In the same vein, the Chairman of the Ilorin branch of Young Lawyers’ Forum, Olayinka Dauda Jimoh corroborated his NBA Boss saying EFCC should be made to realise its lapses.
He added that any act of injustice carry out on any member of the Bar is against the generality of the bar.