Libel suit: Sowore didn’t jump bail, lawyer’s arrest illegal -Falana


Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has opposed the Nigeria Police Force over the arrest of Abubakar Marshall, a lawyer to activist Omoyele Sowore.

Falana also debunked claims by police that Sowore jumped bail, saying that the activist had presented himself for any possible arraignment.

Marshal was arrested on Friday for allegedly failing to produce Sowore on February 25.

Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested on February 24, following a petition of criminal defamation, injurious falsehood publication of news known to be false, against him.

His arrest followed a petition by billionaire Ned Nwoko, through his lawyers, Trifold Law & Partners, against Sahara Reporters Foundation.

Lawyer Marshall had stood as surety for Sowore after he was granted an administrative bail with a promise to produce him on February 25.

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Falana said, “In a bid to justify the illegal arrest of Abubakar Marshall Esq. the Police claimed that the lawyer contravened an unspecified provision of the Criminal Code because he failed to produce a client, Mr. Omoyele Sowore at a police station in the Federal Capital Territory.

“It is public knowledge that the movement of Mr Sowore has been restricted to the Federal Capital Territory for the past two years on the orders of the Federal Capital Territory.  Since his abode is well known to the security agencies,  it is grossly misleading to claim that his surety has contravened any provision of the Penal Code.

“However, in spite of the indiscretion of Abubakar Marshall to stand surety for Mr. Sowore, his arrest, detention and prosecution by the Federal Capital Territory Police Command cannot be justified under the law

“It is trite law that a surety cannot be arrested, detained and charged with any criminal offence before any court in Nigeria on the ground that a suspect has jumped  bail or failed to report for investigation or arraignment.

The penalty is that the surety is legally obligated to pay the sum stated in the recognisance or bail bond. Before the  bail bond can be forfeited the surety is entitled to show a cause or justify before a Court why it should not be forfeited.

“However, if the surety fails to pay the sum stipulated in the bond the court shall proceed to recover it from the surety like a fine under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

“In view of the several decisions of Nigerian courts on the contractual nature of suretyship, Abubakar Marshall has not committed any offence whatsoever.  The authorities of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command are advised to withdraw the criminal charge erroneously filed before the Upper Area Court in Kubwa. However, since Mr. Sowore is not on the run he has decided to report himself to the Police for any possible arraignment.”

Source: The Punch