...HIS ARREST AND DETENTION, EXPOSURE TO HEALTH RISKS AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
1. We are lawyers to Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, the erstwhile Chairman of the disbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, and issue this Press Statement in that capacity.
2. Since the 20th of March, 2020, when Chief was arrested by men of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, we have been working round the clock, following the path of the rule of law to secure the release of Our Client on bail; however, apart from the fact that Our Client is cooperating fully with the ICPC, he was denied access to his lawyers until Monday, 23rd of March, 2020 when they allowed one of his lawyers to sit with him during a marathon questioning session that lasted over 10 hours, non-stop.
3. After the questioning session, the ICPC purportedly granted him bail with IMPOSSIBLE CONDITIONS. The conditions are as follows:
The commission has decided to grant you bail on the condition stated as follows:
a) Two sureties (A Permanent Secretary and Director) who are in the employment of the Federal Government of Nigeria on Grade Level 17 and above.
b) The sureties will produce their letters of appointment, letters of last promotion, Identity cards and a passport photograph.
c) The sureties must come along with their introduction letters from superior officers in their offices.
d) The two sureties must have landed property situated at Maitama/ Guzape or Asokoro with Original Certificate of Occupancy verifiable from the appropriate land Agency.
e) The Respondent must submit his international passport to the Commission.
f) The surety must be willing to sign a bond of Ten Million Naira only (=N= 10, 000, 000.00) or a surety in the like sum.”
4. Immediately after the questioning session on the 23rd of March, 2020, Chief Obono-Obla, who has been managing acute hypertension for a while now, started bleeding profusely from his nostrils, and was rushed to the National Hospital, Abuja. His wife and doctor told us that he has never bled from the nose before. Chief was supposed to be taken, again, to the hospital the next morning, but the ICPC refused to take him to the hospital. We don’t know what is wrong with Chief. We don’t know why he is suddenly bleeding from his nostrils. This bleeding continues intermittently, and the ICPC has refused our application to have Chief’s personal doctor see him.
5. Our Client is being held for alleged forgery. It is a bailable offence. He is supposed to have been charged to court or released on bail within 24 hours. That’s the position of the law. On the 25th of March, 2020, we approached the Federal High Court for his bail and the Court ordered the ICPC to vary the stringent bail conditions already granted him by the ICPC, so that Our Client can go home on Bail. The ICPC flatly refused to obey this court order.
6. In the face of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, when the whole world is literally shutting down, why is the ICPC insisting on keeping Chief Okoi Obono-Obla in their custody? As at this moment, he is the only one in the detention facility; all others arrested have been released.
7. Heads of Security Agencies in the country have warned that Nigerians shouldn’t been detained for bailable offences, Courts have been instructed not to remand persons in prison custody, some countries are sending their inmates home, others are proposing that our detention centres be converted to isolation centres in the face of this ugly pandemic, other law enforcement agencies are emptying their cells; but ICPC wants to keep Chief Okoi Obono-Obla locked up. This action paints the present Government in horrible lights.
8. Chief’s passports have been seized. His car has been seized. His house was raided and properties, including phones, laptops and documents carted away. He is not running anywhere. Covid-19 has even made sure of this: nobody can run anywhere. He should be released, unless someone is acting under instructions to put Chief in harm’s way in detention. When he was arrested his arm was pierced with purported medical equipment and his blood sample forcefully taken, without his consent, and no one has told us why they did that to him. We don’t know if that is why he started bleeding from his nose.
9. We therefore call on the ICPC to release Our Client on bail on self-recognizance, immediately. This is not a good time to keep anyone in custody, especially for bailable offences.
F. Baba Isa, Esq.,
FBI LEGAL, Abuja.
[Counsel to Chief Okoi Obono-Obla]
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