87 Lawyers to Defend Man With 86 Wives
From George Oji in Kaduna, 09.21.2008
Kaduna-bsed coalition of rights groups under the umbrella`d represent each of the 86 wives, the 87th counsel would stand in for Pa Masaba himself, who the group has described as prisoner of conscience.
Addressing a press conference in Kaduna at the weekend, lead counsel of the 87 lawyers Mohammed Sanusi said they would remain observers for now in the trial but would step in once their services are needed.
According to Sanusi, the legal services to Pa Masaba by himself and 86 other colleagues of his comes free of charge.
Pa Masaba is being presecuted under Sections 210, 383 and 386 of the Penal Code. He was arraigned last week before the Sharia Court and orderd to be detained, an action the rights groups are picking holes from.
Sanusi explained that “putting Masaba in jail without granting him bail on the first day he was presented before the Upper Sharia Court , to us, is a breach of his fundamental human rights.”
He said “Even the Constitution of Nigeria, Section 36 sub-section 5 presumes him to be innocent.
Accordding to Sanusi, “As it is now, since Masaba did not plead guilty to the allegations against him, he should be taken to be innocent and under all the provisions of the law, that is the Penal Code, he was arraigned before the Upper Sharia Court , he has the right to be granted bail. But for him now to be refused bail, shows that there is something fishy and that is why we believe the Civil Rights Congress has come in.”
According to the group the first step Pa Masaba’s ought to have taken would have been to ascertain from him reasons why he married the many wives and if this fails to satisfy them before they would proceed with the lefal option.
“He may have explanations for his actions and if the offences alleged against him are purely under the Islamic Law, he needs not be prosecuted under the Penal Code. Under the Islamic Law, there are specific provisions under which he could be prosecuted and I believe even our constitution approves that.
“So, if he’s going to be prosecuted under the Penal Code, then he should be granted bail. At least they have to consider many things, including his age, his enormous responsibilities to his family, more than one hundred children, his wives and other dependants around. All these things ought to have been considered before remanding Masaba in prison,” the groups explained.
While not disputing the obligations of the Niger State government to have initiated the Pa Masaba’s prosecution Sanusi argued that, “The Niger State Government has the right to complain but their complaint is on whose behalf? Their complaints must be on behalf of the children or the wives or even the relatives of these wives or their parents. That is the provision of the law. So, who is the complainant?
“If the police or the government are complaining for the purpose of public peace, such public peace is on whose interest? Has anybody reported that the man has encroached on anybody’s land for farming to take care of his family? There has not been anything like that. Has anyone complained that the man stole anything from anybody for the purpose of feeding his family? So, prosecuting the man is not in anybody’s interest.
“If they want to prosecute for perhaps offending one of the provisions of the Quran or the Hadith, these are laws, he should be prosecuted purely under these laws in the Quran and not under the Penal Code.
“If you are bringing him under the Penal Code, then it’s becoming the interest of Nigerians, it’s becoming the interest of the law. But if it’s purely under Islamic Law, we have the provisions of the Hadith and those of the Quran. And if somebody views a situation that this is what he thinks, he may be right and he may be wrong, based on his own belief or his own interpretation.”
According to Sanusi, “Our first action in this matter is that we are going to file a motion on notice to get this man out of the prison, at least to give him back his freedom and to respect his rights. After getting him out of the prison, we’ll now proceed to file preliminary objections to the entire case itself to be struck out because it’s not genuine because under Section 141 of the Criminal Procedure Code, as I said earlier and I still maintain my stand that there must be a human being that must have complained under these Sections 383 and 386 of the Penal Code.
“And if no human being has complained about his act and if he’s to be prosecuted under the Penal Code, the action is void altogether. So, we are going to file preliminary objection to strike out the case against him. That is what we intend to do and that is why the CRC has cause to go into the case to observe and then take the proper actions. We are filing the motion on Monday at the Upper Sharia Court, Minna.”