Unnecessary Furore Over Nggilari’s Release On Bail
An ugly culture has gradually crept into Nigeria’s criminal justice system and until this culture is eliminated, miscarriage of justice will continue to pervade and dominate our national justice system.
Once an individual is accused of any offence or crime, he or she automatically becomes guilty in the eyes of the public thereby contravening the age-long universal maxim that an accused person remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction. Some Nigerians hardly verify the facts before pronouncing people guilty in any public discourse. Secondly, is the preponderance of media trial where accused persons are also tried and found guilty on the pages of the print and social media and in the court of public opinion while the third one is the issue of gang up, conspiracy and persecution of the accused persons.
These injurious practices are captured within the theory of societal ignorance and mischief. Many people who raise unfounded and baseless issues and engage in smear campaign against accused persons are not familiar or knowledgeable with the provisions of the law. Sometimes, people do not follow the court trials and do not read court judgments before rushing into conclusions. It is very strange and surprising that some eminent senior members of the Bar contrary to established practice and tradition of the Bar keep on commenting on the merits or otherwise of the case without availing themselves of the judgement of the Court and the Law supposedly used to convict Mr. Nggilari. Many accused persons suffer public victimisation, indignation, odium and ridicule as a result of heartlessness and callousness of people while the deliberate orchestration of evil and revenge worsen the plights of accused persons.
The implication is that many Judges in the Temple of Justice have been coerced by this negative public opprobrium to inflict injuries on the accused persons under the guise of public and national interests although there are many instances where some Judges ignore such negative public opinion and give judgments that are at total variance with public opinion.
The case of the former governor of Adamawa State, Bala Nggilari who was granted bail while waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeal on his substantive suit is instructive here because the bail granted him by the State High Court, Yola has been grossly misinterpreted and demonised by the public.
We should recall the case of Bode George who was convicted by a Federal High Court Lagos and mid-way into his prison term, the Court of Appeal upturned the judgment of the High Court and set Bode George free. So, what happens to the excruciating prison experience of Bode George? How can one explain it and what do you think can be used to compensate and assuage the hard feelings of an innocent person for such injustice all the days of his life?
It is better to have an accused-on bail and wait for decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on the matter than to keep an accused person in Prison based on Trial Court’s verdict and to be later upturned by superior Courts. This is why in law, it is better to set free 99 guilty persons than to convict one innocent person. These questions are begging for answers and this is why we should tread with caution on such matters and examine the provisions and procedures of the legal system on bail while waiting for appeal.
Our legal system has provided conditions under which a convicted person can be granted bail while waiting for appeal. The first condition is that the grounds of Appeal should be recondite, substantial and have a great chance of success on appeal or and precarious medical condition that cannot be handled by the prison conditions while the second condition is the Judge’s discretion usually exercised pursuant to order 342(2) of the criminal procedure code and under the inherent powers of the Honourable Court.
It would be recalled that Nggilari was curiously convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment without any option of fine for infractions of the supposedly procurement laws of Adamawa State on the 6th of March, 2017 by Justice Nathan Musa of the State High Court, Yola. He was to serve in any prison of his choice beginning with the Yola prison. Dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court, Ngillari approached the Court of Appeal, Yola on the 7th March, 2017 praying the Appellate Court to set aside the conviction and sentence by the Trial Court.
With the pendency of the matter at the Court of Appeal, Nggilari approached the same trial court and the same Judge who decided the matter initially for bail while waiting for appeal. After examining the grounds for bail application, the same trial court granted his request for bail while waiting for the Court of Appeal decision on the substantive suit which has generated unnecessary public furor and uproar based on ignorance and mischief.
Nggilari’s appeal at the Superior Court is recondite and substantial. For example, one of the issues that the Court of Appeal will have to determine is whether Ngillari’s conviction under section 58(5) of the supposed law was in order. Section 58 (5) a and b of the Adamawa State Public Procurement Law 2013 provides as follows: 58(5) any person who while carrying out his duties as an officer of the Bureau or of any Procuring Entity, contravenes any provisions of this law commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a cumulative punishment of: (a) a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 calendar years without an option of fine and (b) summary dismissal from government services.
The implication of this provision of the Law is that civil servants and not public officers such as a governor are to be convicted under it and the word cumulative means that the convicted person under this provision must mandatorily serve both prison terms and summary dismissal from government services. The application of one and not the two of the punishments to Nggilari means that the law is not applicable to him as a governor.
In seeking for bail, Nggilari provided medical reports from Nigeria and foreign hospitals showing that he is hypertensive, diabetic and suffering from other severe medical complications for more than six years with periodic referrals abroad for medical attention which cannot be adequately taken care of in Nigerian prisons. After all, it is only a healthy person and someone who is alive that will be fit and present to stand trial.
In exercising his discretion on this matter, the learned judge took note of the recondite and substantial nature of the matter at the appeal; appellant’s long medical history, deteriorating health conditions in Yola Prison and reasons too long to be listed to grant the bail request.
The Yola Prison staff according to investigations did nothing wrong in the matter contrary to wicked rumour orchestrated by Ngillari’s traducers that the Prison staff forged documents to secure bail for the ex-governor. What happened was that the court issued a warrant to Yola Prison to produce Nggilari in court. His health condition deteriorated and the Prison staff wrote back to the court that based on his ailing health condition, they could not risk bringing him to court. The judge used his discretion and took the decision on the matter. Please, let us allow sleeping dogs to lie. Why are people crying more than the bereaved?
Therefore, the bail granted to the appellant, Nggilari is justified, merited and within the purview of legal provisions and judge’s discretion. As such the noise and hullabaloo on the bail is uncalled for and unjustified.
– Okadigbo wrote in from Abuja
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