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Who wants to defend Kidnappers?

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By Josef Omorotionwan
THIS  is a spill-over from last week. It is becoming clearer what people mean when they talk of running from pillar to post. In 2011, the ink on President Goodluck Jonathan’s inaugural papers had hardly dried when he started toying with the idea of a single tenure – first, of eight years; then seven years; and finally, six years.

At that time, we were told about the numerous advantages accruable from the single tenure and that the incumbent President, Governors, and Assemblymen would not benefit from the measure.

*Suspected kidnappers
*Suspected kidnappers

This idea was taken to the town hall meetings, so called, but it was thrown out of the window in virtually all the constituencies.

Suddenly, at a time when the popularity of the ruling party is waning fast, Senator Ike Ekweremadu must quickly resurrect the idea, except that this time around, the incumbent are permitted to benefit handsomely from their iniquities. This is simply the masthead of illogic.

Wouldn’t it have been safer to deepen their research on new election rigging technics? Whoever tells them that they can muster the extra-ordinary majorities required to pull the absurdity through?

Again, the President is not alone in this trickery. Ekweremadu probably sees in the design, a way of easing out other contending forces at the Enugu gubernatorial front. This is a quick aside. It is not the topic for today.

Meanwhile, the lawyers in EdoState are visibly angry and justifiably so. The Medical Doctors are also annoyed. These professionals render their humane services to all, including the bad elements. But these bad people turn round and kill, maim and kidnap their members with impunity.

When they go on their escapades to kidnap lawyers, judges and doctors, they sometimes receive gunshots in their encounter with the police. Some of them get arrested and charged to court. The wounded ones are rushed to the hospitals for treatment by doctors; while the lawyers are asked to go and defend the ones arrested.

The professionals are now beginning to say, “Our mumu don do. For how long shall we continue to help those who give us hell?. Enough is enough!”

The bag won’t contain it but the native doctor won’t let go. Yes, the country’s Constitution is laced all over with guarantees of the right of the suspect to fair hearing and legal representation, particularly on crimes that carry the ultimate punishment of death. However, the same Constitution also protects the lawyer on the choice of who to defend and who not to defend. It would also be more  painful to watch a notorious armed robber or any of these professed kidnappers set free on the defence lawyer’s technicalities.

And this is not the first time in this country that lawyers are showing their distaste to a criminal gang. It would be recalled that the Lawrence Anini saga of the 1980s terrorised this part of the defunct BendelState, to the extent that when members of the gang were eventually arrested, lawyers did not want to touch their case even with a ten-foot stick.

Benjamin Iserhienrhiien, a bright upcoming lawyer who was then fresh from law school, took it upon himself to defend them. To the rest of society, Benjamin’s effort was more like a suicide bid and he was never the same after that. People looked at him with disdain and he was literarily renamed Anini’s lawyer and everywhere he went, he was booed until he finally relocated to the USA.

In a society where evil is predominant, selective enforcement is also evil. Lawyers who refuse to defend kidnappers should have no moral justification in defending politicians who rig election and merchants of death who deal on fake and adulterated drugs.

It is painful to think of the harm that these evil men bring on society but the problem inherent in refusing to defend them also weighs heavily on society. For one thing, we know not of many trial judges who would still proceed with a case when the defendant is not represented by counsel. To the chagrin of society, we are going to witness an alarming increase in cases of awaiting trial and the concomitant prison congestion in the months ahead.

For another thing, we see the non-appearance of lawyers for suspects as a valid ground for cases to collapse on appeal in which case, the courts will just be a revolving door for the criminals that we say we don’t want to be recycled to our streets.

More importantly, there are cases where innocent people are accused unjustly. Should these ones also be allowed to die?

There is a way out of this jam lock – Let the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Edo State Chapter, rescind its decision and take on the suspects, if only to fulfill all righteousness; so that those who merit to die can, indeed, die quickly!

Elsewhere in the advanced world, the right of the suspect to counsel and his right to information have long been established at every level – from arrest to conviction. We are quickly reminded of the case of Miranda v. Arizona 384 US 436 (1966), where Ernesto Miranda was arrested and charged with kidnapping and rape. At the police headquarters, he was identified by the complainant. He was interrogated for two hours by detectives who admitted at trial that he was not advised of his right to counsel. Miranda signed a written confession and was subsequently convicted at the lower court.

The Supreme Court, however, held that the confession was improperly obtained and he was therefore discharged and acquitted. The basic principle established by this landmark case has since remained that prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent; that anything he says may be used as evidence against him; and that he has a right to the presence of a lawyer, either retained by him or appointed for him where he is too poor to afford one.


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