Abuja-based lawyer and former Commissioner for Information in Abia State, Dr. ACB Agbazuere, has dragged the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as the National Assembly to the Federal High Court, Abuja, over the newly promulgated Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The Act was signed into law early this year by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In an originating summon with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/889/2015 filed on November 2, the 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 the court may require the deposit of a 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, Agbazuere argued that the provisions of the new law runs contrary to the 1999 constitution and that if allowed to exist, it means a Nigerian citizen who has no money or other security will be deprived of his right to bail and will therefore be sent to prison until he/she pays the money when he/she is yet to be tried for the offence.
“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, the 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 defense of exceptions allowed under the law generally.
“ With Section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the accused is to pay money before his bail can be approved when the prosecution has neither proved the essential ingredients of the case nor has the accused been found guilty.
“By providing for the mandatory payment of money before bail is approved, Section 165(2) of the Act has now presumed every person guilty when he has not been tried and found guilty. It is an aberration and ambush against the people and should not be allowed to stand.
“At a time when the level of poverty in Nigeria is so alarming that the president has declared that the country is broke and states cannot pay salaries to workers except with the aid of bailout funds (which are also loans), any legislation imposing payment of money on Nigerian citizens before their bail is approved is not only inconsistent with the intendment of Section 36 (5) of the constitution, but also a bad law as it is anti-people.
“Section 165(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 shall lead to and is already causing arbitrarily detention and deprivation of the liberty and freedom of Nigerians, as their bail shall not and is not being approved until they deposit money, when they are still deemed innocent by our laws.”
He cited copiously earlier judgments by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to support his suit. The case is yet to be assigned to a judge.

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