- A subsection in the law empowers the Governor to detain anyone at his pleasure
Reactions have trailed the signing into law, Law No. 2 of 2020, termed Imo State Administration and Criminal Justice Law.
What has generated furore over the law is section 484 which states:
“Where any person is ordered to be detained during the Governor’s pleasure he shall notwithstanding anything in this Law or in any other written law contained be liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the Governor may direct and whilst so detained shall be deemed to be in the legal custody”
In addition, the law provides that a detainee may only be discharged if granted license by the Governor.
The law has generated widespread reactions from concerned Imolites, including the sponsor of the bill, Hon.Frank Ugboma, member representing Oguta State Constituency in Imo State House of Assembly.
The Imo Awareness Coalition, IAC, a watchdog group, said the law should not stand, while social crusader, Mr. Ikenna Samuelson, wondered why a lawmaker from the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had to initiate the bill in the first place.
In a statement in Owerri, Ugboma, who is also the Deputy Minority leader of the House, said some sections in the recently gazetted ACJL came to him as a rude shock.
His statement read:
“Some Sections in the recently gazetted ACJL came to me with rude shock.
“As the Chief Sponsor of the Bill, I have had cause to search through all the documents that cumulated into the Bill. I must say that I have done this repeatedly and have equally taken further pains in reaching out to my colleagues in the House. I must admit that they have each expressed shock over the sudden obnoxious sections of the Law more particularly Section 484 of the said ACJL of Imo State.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Bill I presented had about a total of 372 Sections. How and where it was amended, recreated and reshaped into Section 484 and beyond remains a mystery and a legislative wonder of our time as what I presented and circulated to my colleagues during plenary, both in the First and Second readings did not contain such obnoxious and embarrassing Section 484. Neither was it deliberated in the House Committee of the whole. It indeed never existed in the House.
“No one has been able to explain to the members of the 9th House how and at what stage the said Section 484 was inserted into the Bill. It smacks of an evil manipulation to throw Imo people into the dungeon.
“As a Lawyer, I have had cause to fight against such obnoxious laws and as an activist there is no way this section would have scaled through plenary in the 9th House which I am part of. All of us are already available victims of this obnoxious sections. Not even those who practiced this calculated affront on the Constitution are exempted.
“This particular provision is a nullity ab initio in view of the unambiguous provisions of sections 1(1),(3),4,5,6 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as Amended).
“This is very appalling.
“In my quest to ascertain which hands of Esau made it into the Bill I presented, attention was drawn to a list said to be the names of Imo people that facilitated the domestication of the Law in the State. It need not be overemphasized that in lawmaking, such contributions and or inputs from members of the public are usually submitted to the House for deliberations. I am however saddened that there is no record of presentation of such obnoxious contributions to the House. There is no record anywhere that such contributions was laid and/or circulated to members during plenary.
“I have requested that my colleagues constitute a committee to ascertain how such horrendous act was practiced on this ordinarily good legislation. Its outcome, I believe would interest all lovers of democracy and enable future legislative vigilance.
“This was not the Bill I presented and sponsored.
“In the manuscripts that I received after each hearing and which I have today compared with that given to my colleagues, there is no hand of Esau. This has informed my view and I have today forwarded a Bill for the immediate amendment of those offensive and draconian sections.
The Imo Awareness Coalition, IAC, said the law is a slap on the face of the judiciary, and signifies a gradual step to turn Imo State into a jungle, where laws are twisted to suit the whims and caprices of those in authority.
Fidelis Echendu, Publicity Secretary of the Coalition, said there will be comprehensive under study of the law by the Coalition.
“We are still in shock over such a law. How did it come to be. We do have questions for members of the House of Assembly. At the appropriate time, we shall make our official position known.But for now, the law is draconian and should not stand”
Activist Defends Law
Mr. Iwuoha said “detaining a person at Governor’s pleasure is only for uncontrollable persons of unsound mind. it was copied from the common law of England where our criminal procedural law evolved. The question to ask is, why would a lawmaker initiate such a bill?……