Nnamdi Kanu - 'On bail', 'Yet On jail' |- by Olakunle Allison
It is no news that I am not a big fan of Nnamdi Kanu and his sympathizers. It is also no news that I have on several occasions condemned his methodology and political and ethnocentric salvos. On a personal note, he is not my ideal freedom fighter.
But I'm upset. As a member of the Bar and a minister in the temple of justice, I am afraid for Lady Justice. I may not like some dramatic personas. I may hate their political and socio-cultural ideologies but it is important that in my hatred I do not reduce them to nothing by striping them of their fundamental human rights. Worse still is when the institution found remiss is the last hope of the common man- The Courts.
I may not like what you say but my humanity must defend your right to say it. This explains why a few days ago I defended someone against the tyranny of Online Feminists. Folks who wanted him to choose between his job and his voice. 'Keep your job as long as you shut up' is their maxim. In their world, you cannot have both. Yet, the law of nature, as espoused by Aristotle and Aquinas, endows every human with inalienable right to hold certain thoughts and give expression to them. I say this in context.
Nnamdi Kanu was granted bail and the bail conditions make me wince. The conditions are to say the least antithetical to justice. Three sureties; one of whom must be a Senator, another a Jewish Religious Leader and then one Prominent Nigerian; in the sum of #100 million naira each.
So far, these conditions are within the unfettered discretion of our courts to grant, no matter how novel and awkward they may be. I have no grouse with them. But when the courts begin to trample on inalienable freedoms ad rights of people, then there is fire on the mountain and someone ought to sound the alarm.
For example, Mr. Kanu must not grant interviews or press briefings during his bail. He must also not be found in the company of people numbering more than ten (10). In lay man's language, he cannot freely speak and he cannot freely associate. Guys, this is judicial extremism in embryo. It must be aborted before it grows further.
For the benefit of non lawyers, this is the logic behind grant of bail by courts: By virtue of Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN), a suspect standing trial is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved. Hence, granting him/her bail is a way of safeguarding section 36(5). An innocent man ought to be free. In fact, he is free until a court of law decides otherwise.
Sureties are therefore appointed to ensure production of the suspect whenever his guilt or innocence is to be determined in court. In the eye of the CFRN, therefore, Mr. KANU remains an innocent man. This is Constitutional Democracy.
By those latter bail conditions, however, the court has indirectly convicted Mr. Kanu without trial. A man that is presumed innocent cannot speak freely. A man that is presumed innocent cannot associate freely. Two freedoms that are guaranteed in Sections 39 and 40 of the CFRN, the same Document that created the courts. Do you see the travesty already?
Our courts are not more powerful than the ink that created them. They must therefore respect the ink in those sections of the law, except where there exists a constitutional excuse to do otherwise.
All lawyers know that the discretion of Judges must be exercised judicially and judiciously, and not arbitrarily or whimsically. Where such discretion will offend Sections 33-44 of the CFRN (which enshrine fundamental human rights of persons), the courts must resist the temptation to exercise such discretion; unless the discretion will restate and reaffirm those fundamental human rights.
Nnamdi Kanu may have been granted bail, but if he cannot speak freely and associate freely he is still in jail. Worse still, he is no longer innocent. Innocent men speak freely and associate freely.
Our fight to protect human freedoms and dignities is not holistic until we purge our temples of justice.