Continued Detention Of General Ishaya Bamayi, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha & Their Co-Accused Cohorts Is Illegal And Inhuman
Dozie Ikem Ezeife, Esq.
I read in a recent newspaper article that Retired Lieutenant-General Ishaya Bamaiyi (Abacha’s Chief of Army Staff), who is currently in prison awaiting trial for alleged attempted murder of Chief Alex Ibru, is in dire straights stemming from lack of adequate medical care. This is really sad. Nobody deserves such a fate.
On a personal note, I do not think much of Bamaiyi and his colleagues. In my view they are a bunch of uncouth thugs in army uniforms. But my personal views are beside the point. Laws are enacted in society not merely to protect the innocent. One does not dispute the fact that those who lead exemplary life deserve the protection of our laws. And so do those whose lives are less stellar. The law is no respecter of persons. The law does not discriminate. The rule of law espouses the concept of equality of all Nigerians before the law. Whenever the legal system is skewed against any Nigerian, we all lose. It is Bamaiyi’s turn today but it might be yours tomorrow.
During the Abacha regime, President Olusegun Obasanjo and several other innocent Nigerians were accused of a phantom coup, “tried” and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Some of them including Retired Lieutenant-General Shehu Ya’Ardua lost their lives in prison. Nigerians rose in collective protest and expressed support for these martyrs. That was during a dictator’s regime. It therefore saddens me that this sort of injustice is being practiced in the administration of a victim of past injustice. No matter how one feels about Bamaiyi and his clique, the fact still remains that they are innocent of all charges against them until proven guilty. Why then should these men still be in prison custody seven years after they were charged?
Even those accused of murder in certain very limited situations can be granted bail, albeit on very stringent terms. I therefore submit that a person accused of attempting to commit murder should be entitled to bail. General Bamaiyi and his cohorts therefore deserve bail. I do not minimize the heinous and serious nature of the charge against these men. But there is no justification for the continued detention of these men indefinitely without any serious efforts to bring them to a speedy trial. It seems to me that their continued detention without bail and without a speedy trial is a deliberate act. It does look like somebody highly placed is taking his own pound of flesh on these men for their part in the Abacha phantom coup. Two wrongs do not make a right. We cannot allow these men to languish in prison and eventually die off without a speedy trial. To leave them to rot away at Kirikiri without a real effort at a speedy trial or bail in my humble view amounts to sentencing them to death without trial. That is illegal and inhuman. No Nigerian deserve such a fate especially at a time when we profess to be practicing democracy and the observance of rule of law.
The absurdity of the continued detention of Bamaiyi and his group is heightened by the recent bail granted the former governor of Anambra State Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju, a man facing three murder raps. What sort of sense does it make to grant bail to a murder suspect who allegedly orchestrated the gruesome butchering of a couple and their unborn child and in turn refuse bail to people who were charged with attempted murder? As the American would say, “go figure!” Only in Nigeria can such absurdity hold sway.
The Attorney-General of Lagos State should either prosecute Lt. General Ishaya Bamaiyi, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and their co-accused colleagues expeditiously or dismiss the charges against them. Indeed, the Lagos High Court that is trying them should grant them bail immediately, on stringent terms of course.
Dozie Ikem Ezeife, Esq.