An Abuja based lawyer and former Commissioner for information, Abia State, Dr. ACB Agbazuere has dragged the Attorney General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice as well the National Assembly to the Federal High Court Abuja over the newly promulgated Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The Act is one of those signed into law early this year by former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR. In an originating summons Suit Number FHC/ABJ/ CS/889/2015 filed on 2nd November 2015, the learned lawyer and human rights activist is seeking the determination of the court on whether the provisions of section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to the effect that court may require the deposit of sum of money or other security as the court may specify from the defendant or his surety before bail is approved, is not inconsistent with the provisions of section 36 (5) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( 1999 as amended), to the effect that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
In a 17 paragraph affidavit he deposed to in support of the suit, Dr. Agbazuere argued that the provisions of the new law runs contrary to the 1999 constitution and that if allowed to exist means a Nigerian citizen who has no money or other security will be deprived of his right to bail and will not have his bail approved and will therefore be sent to prison until he/she pays the money when he/she is yet to be tried for the offence.
Said he: “the law is settled that the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme and if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be void by virtue of section 1(1) and (3) of the constitution “That applicability of section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Act, 2015 will deprive Nigerian citizens of their liberty, freedom and fair hearing. “My Lord, I submit that in our laws, presumption of innocence is so sacrosanct that the burden of rebuttal or the burden to discharge presumption of innocence at any time demands that the prosecution would have established or proved the essential ingredients of offence and the accused person is unable to bring himself within the defences of exceptions allowed under the law generally.