The governor of Imo State, Mr. Hope Uzodinma, has signed the Imo State Administration of Criminal Bill No 2 of 2020 (ISACJL, 2020) into law empowering him to detain anybody without questions or court/police warrant.
The law which was made public yesterday does not recognise the need for an arrest warrant for any person who it deems to be “in legal custody”.
Section 484 provides that “where any person is ordered to be detained during the governor’s pleasure, he shall notwithstanding anything in the ISACJL, 2020 or contained in any other written law liable to be detained in such place and under such conditions as the governor may direct and whilst so detained shall be in proper custody.”
Section 485(1) says a person “detained during the Governor’s pleasure may at any time be discharged by the Governor on license” and that “a license under subsection (1) of this section may be in such form and may contain such conditions as the Governor may direct under section 485(2).
Section 485(3) states that the license “may at any time be revoked or varied by the Governor”, adding: “Where license has been revoked the person to whom the license relates shall proceed to such place as the Governor may direct and if he fails to do so, may be arrested without warrant and taken to such place.”
Meanwhile, citizens including members of the opposition in the state house of assembly reacted angrily over what they described as “obnoxious law.”
The deputy minority leader, Mr. Frank Ugboma who presented the bill said “the Bill I presented had about a total of 372 Sections.
“How and where it was amended, recreated and reshaped into Section 484 and beyond remains a mystery and a legislative wonder of our time as what I presented and circulated to my colleagues during plenary, both in the First and Second readings did not contain such obnoxious and embarrassing Section 484. Neither was it deliberated in the House Committee of the Whole. It indeed never existed in the House.
“No one has been able to explain to the members of the 9th House how and at what stage the said Section 484 was inserted into the Bill. It smacks of an evil manipulation to throw Imo people into the dungeon.
“As a lawyer, I have had cause to fight against such obnoxious laws and as an activist there is no way this section would have scaled through plenary in the 9th House which I am part of. All of us are already available victims of these obnoxious sections. Not even those who practiced this calculated affront on the Constitution are exempted.
“This particular provision is a nullity ab initio in view of the unambiguous provisions of sections 1(1), (3), 4, 5, 6 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as Amended).This is very appalling.
“In my quest to ascertain which hands of Esau made it into the Bill I presented, attention was drawn to a list said to be the names of Imo people that facilitated the domestication of the Law in the State. It need not be overemphasised that in lawmaking, such contributions and or inputs from members of the public are usually submitted to the House for deliberations. I am however saddened that there is no record of presentation of such obnoxious contributions to the House. There is no record anywhere that such contributions was laid and/or circulated to members during plenary.
“I have requested that my colleagues constitute a committee to ascertain how such horrendous act was practiced on this ordinarily good legislation. Its outcome, I believe would interest all lovers of democracy and enable future legislative vigilance.
“This was not the Bill I presented and sponsored.
“In the manuscripts that I received after each hearing and which I have today compared with that given to my colleagues, there is no hand of Esau. This has informed my view and I have today forwarded a Bill for the immediate amendment of those offensive and draconian sections,” he said.
In his reaction, factional state publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Onwuasonya Jones, castigated the law it does not mention any of the known law enforcement agencies as the arresting authority, but rather makes a vague provision that someone may be detained at the pleasure of the governor.
“This implies that anyone could actually be empowered by the governor to affect that arrest. It could be Chinasa, it could be Akaolisa, it could be Anyaehie and it could be any thug or aide who the governor feels can carry out that assignment.
“The obnoxious provision goes further to say that the detained person may be kept in any place and under any condition which the governor directs. You could be picked up anywhere, anytime and kept in any place or in any condition.
“The law did not even provide for what infractions the governor may be at pleasure to order someone’s detention. It could be for anything as bad as asking that the governor pays civil servants their entitlements, calling the governor the Ben Johnson of Nigerian politics. It could be for holding a legitimate aspiration to run for an election in the state or to freely associate with legitimate political organizations. It could even be for deciding to go to school or attend church service or for admiring a beautiful woman, who coincidentally, the governor fancies.
“The vacuousness of these sections of the law is further accentuated by the provision that a detainee may be released only by getting a licence from the governor. This licence may be likened to paying ransom for a kidnapped victim. And by that provision, the licence will be provisional and could be revoked at any time.
“By this, the governor’s hostages would never be free. The licence would contain some provisions that would eternally deprive such victim of his or her basic rights to freedom. So, once detained at the governor’s pleasure, you remain a slave to the governor, perpetually,” he said.