Precious Donatus has been in detention for more than three weeks now and under our criminal legal system we have a complainant and the accused. But in this case, since I have been following this case, there has not been anybody that has come out to say he or she lost a baby.
I really got angry but the Police kept her for more than three weeks until today (last Tuesday) that they brought her before the court. It is in the first place a violation of her fundamental rights. Under the constitution, the Police can arrest anybody suspected to have committed offence, but they are supposed to bring such person to the court within the stipulated time. But the police seem to be operating a jungle system. The Police are not helping out matters.
The way I see it is that the Police are unduly taking advantage of people’s ignorance of the law. Most often, I doubt if the Police even know the law, but they ought to know.
Now that the woman has been brought to court, the charge to me sounds very vague, because that charge never disclosed a complainant. The charge says that these babies are being deprived of ‘unknown parents’. Let us see and know how the Police are going to prosecute her.
But meanwhile, I think they’ve been able to achieve their aim which is to have the woman dumped in the cell awaiting her formal trial in the high court. What it means is that the woman will now remain in prison custody, pending her trial at the High Court, and with the clumsy nature of our trial system, that woman could remain there for months, because Police may not even agree to release the file.
My submission in court today:
I filed in an exparte application about two weeks ago. We have approached the Police to grant her bail which she is entitled to but the Police refused, saying they are still conducting investigation. To me, it is an infringement on her fundamental rights. So, I brought an application for bail, which was granted today (being Tuesday).
But I was not aware Police would arraign her today (being Tuesday)
The substantive case has been adjourned till 29th of September. You know the High Court is going on vacation.
I’m optimistic she’ll not stay there any longer again, because the bail conditions are not difficult to meet – 3 years tax clearance, and getting somebody who owns a landed property, and a member from her constituency. These will be met very soon.
We will be ready to defend her at the High Court whenever Police decide to bring her to court again.
Under our legal system, if somebody is accused for an offence and the court convicts the person, that’s her problem. But we should be able to assert our rights. You can not arrive at a conclusion when somebody is not yet on trial or convicted. That is why the courts are there to try people on the offences they have committed. That is our grouse. If on trial, she is convicted, she’ll suffer for it. The law will take its course.
Two courts sat on her case, bail application granted by another court
Last Tuesday, two courts in Owerri sat on the case of Precious Donatus Ogbonna. While the police arraigned her at Magistrate Court1, Owerri, on child trafficking in suit number OW/289C/2011 alongside her Personal Assistant, a 30-year-old Adangozi Onuigwe, the counsel to the accused, Barrister D.C. Ndiokwere who had earlier filed an exparte application for bail was also at the High Court 3, Owerri to argue for her bail. The suit number is HOW/355/2011: which is between Precious Donatus Ogbonna vs Commissioner of Police, Imo state.
The two cases was were heard about the same time and did not allow the counsel to the accused to present his defence. Briefing Saturday Vanguard after the sitting, Barrister Ndiokwere said that he was not aware that the accused would be brought to court that day. “I was not informed about her arraignment, and you can see the police did not even want me to discuss with her,” he said.
He however disclosed that the exparte application he brought before the court has been granted by Justice Ngozi Okpara of High Court 3, Owerri, adding that he would endeavour to meet the bail conditions.
Meanwhile the charges preferred against her by the police states as follow: “The charges against the suspects read: “That you Precious Ogbonna, Adangozi Onuigwe and others now at large, between the 6th day of May 2010 and 2nd day of April 2011, at Umuelele, Irete, Owerri, in Owerri Magisterial District, did conspire with one another to commit felony to wit: trafficking in persons and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, as applicable in Imo State.”
The two female suspects were equally accused of intending to deprive the parents, guardians or other persons, who had the lawful care or charge of the seven children.
The two women were accused of taking possession of the said children forcibly or fraudulently take or entice away or receive or harbour the children, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 19(1)(c) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act, 2003, as applicable in Imo State.
Scores of women gathered around the court discussing the issue in hushs tones as they saw Precious and Adangozi being whisked away by the police.