REQUESTS APPEAL AGAINST THE RULING
A pro democracy group, Professionals for Integrity and Good Governance, has petitioned the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over suspected complicity of officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service on the conditional bail grant of Senator Bassey Albert (Oba) who was convicted by a Federal High Court in Uyo for money laundry offences.
The petition co-signed by the Convener of the group, Eric Toanyie, Secretary, E. S. Oriere and Publicity Secretary, Umana Andi, Esq., which prays for the investigation of incidents surrounding Albert’s bail on grounds of ill health, alleges possible breach of the constitution and unwholesome plot by officials at the correctional facility in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
According to the group, “upon the conviction of Mr. Bassey and his movement to Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre, he received different visitors including family members who all testified to him being hale and hearty and in high spirits… “
“…before his conviction and subsequent incarceration at the Custodial Centre, Mr. Basssey was strong and vibrant, holding meetings and conducting political campaigns in Akwa Ibom State.”
“Few days after he was incarcerated at the Centre, Mr. Bassey was moved to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital on alleged medical grounds in total disregard of the provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019. It is also learnt that Mr. Bassey had the liberty of visiting his home intermittently from the hospital.”
“Also, after his release, Mr. Bassey has been attending functions and having meetings with several people and engaging in sports. For example, on January 2, 2023, Mr. Bassey was spotted playing a round of 18 holes of golf at Ibom Golf Course, Akwa Ibom State, accompanied by more than 13 mobile police men, who ensured no one could take a photograph of him.”
Referring to Section 25(1) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, the petition observed that the convicted senator’s health condition as reported to the court did not meet the legal requirements to warrant bail being granted on grounds of ill health.
It further noted that “a careful perusal of the facts and circumstances leading to and succeeding the official release of Mr. Bassey from the Custodial Centre by the court vis-à-vis the enumerated conditions indicates that these three conditions were not met, thereby rendering (first) the movement of Mr. Bassey from the Centre to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), and (second) the granting of bail to Mr. Bassey by the court, unlawful and illegal.”
“On the first condition, there is no record or document certifying that Mr. Bassey was seriously ill by the Centre’s medical officer. This assertion is confirmed by the court papers filed by Mr. Bassey’s lawyers in court for his bail application. On the second condition, Mr. Bassey was not seriously ill. Before his conviction and incarceration, Mr. Bassey was actively attending functions and engaging in political campaigns and tours. During his incarceration, many people who visited him testified to his good health and high spirits. After his release from Centre by the court, he has been attending meetings and campaigning. More so, hypertension and diabetes, which were the averred grounds by Mr. Bassey for his bail, are common ailments which afflict many Nigerians including other inmates, and can be managed at the Custodial Centre.”
“On the third condition, Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre has a ‘suitable accommodation.’ The Centre, as a matter of fact, has been described as being the most beautiful and magnificent Custodial Centre in the country with the state-of-art facilities. So, it was improper to remove Mr. Bassey from a suitable environment to a hospital.”
“Hypertension and diabetes are not legally recognised medical grounds for granting bail to a person that has been convicted of crime and is serving prison term. Upon the conviction of Mr. Bassey, most of the fundamental rights that ordinarily inure to him as a Nigerian citizen became extinguished. The presumption of innocence veil generously granted him by the Constitution is pierced and lifted. It follows that bail, which is a specie of the fundamental right to liberty, does not accrue to Mr. Bassey as of right, and post-conviction bail is rarely granted except in extreme cases of ill-health, i.e., cases of infectious disease which may endanger other inmates as held in Abacha v. FRN (2014) LPELR-22014 (SC) by the Supreme Court.”
Praying for a thorough investigation to be conducted on the circumstances of the removal of Senator Albert from the Correctional Centre, they group seeks an appeal to reverse the bail granted him by the court, holding that the judiciary is risking an unpleasant precedent which is not in line with the anti-corruption mission of the federal government.
“Indeed, with the decision of Federal High Court granting bail to Mr Bassey, a floodgate for frivolous applications, which will let open prison gates, has just begun. Everything must be done to close the floodgate.”
“It is in this vein that we earnestly and very respectfully pray that you cause a thorough investigation to be carried out on the circumstances leading to the removal of Mr. Bassey from Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre and the subsequent release of Mr. Bassey by the court, and bring to book all those involved in that unwholesome, deadly conspiracy.”
“We also request that you use your good office as the chief law enforcer to timely appeal against the ruling granting bail to Mr. Bassey to avoid setting pernicious precedent that will be exploited by all and sundry, thereby repudiating the fight against corruption.”
It can be recalled that Senator Bassey Albert was on December 1, 2022, convicted by the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo on six-count charge of money laundering brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which the court sentenced him to a jail term of seven years on each of the counts.