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Lawyers Differ on Maryam Sanda’s Bail

By Ateko Usman-Ejima


The bail granted to alleged husband killer, Maryam Sanda recently by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Yusuf Halilu in Abuja, has sparked-off legal debate over the desirability of her release.

Sanda is standing trial for allegedly killing her husband, Bilyaminu, son of former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mohammed Bello.

At the last court hearing, her counsel, Joseph Daudu filed a ‘de novo’ motion asking the court to grant his client bail, citing ill-health as reasons for the court to use its discretionary powers.

Daudu, further argued that Maryam is pregnant, adding that there was certified medical reports from government hospital confirming Maryam’s health conditions. He further explained that his client could only receive medical care, if she was granted bail.

Maryam, who is the daughter of Maimuna Aliyu, a former Aso Savings Bank executive, was arraigned by Police for homicide, an offence that carries capital punishment under Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

Upon proofs of ill-health, the presiding judge ordered Sanda to produce two sureties who must reside within the court’s jurisdiction and must have a landed property in the Federal Capital Territory.

Before adjourning the case to 19th March, 2018, the judge also ordered that the biological father of the defendant must sign an undertaking with the court to produce her on demand at every court sittings.

Some prominent lawyers, who spoke on the controversial bail for the suspect expressed different views;

Hassan Makolo

Makolo, an Abuja based legal practitioner posited that Justice Yusuf Halilu has acted within Nigeria’s legal jurisprudence for granting bail to Maryam Sanda.

According to him, the offence, though quite unfortunate, traverses between the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and the Criminal Procedure Code, stating that section 341(1)(3) was sacrosanct.

“By section 341(1)(3), a person charged with capital offence can be admitted to bail where there are special circumstances, and above all bail is a discretionary power of the court which ought to be exercised judiciously”.

Makolo, also believed that the accused remain innocent until proven guilty, citing relevant sections of the Constitution and Administration of Criminal Justice Act,  he opined that it defeated the wisdom and letters of the law to deny her bail.

“Bail is not freedom ‘per se’, it’s part of judicial process that leads the accused to hook or off the hook.  It ensures justice is done to both parties to a case, be it criminal or civil”.

“The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in 2011 is the highest law in Nigeria.  It is the grundnum where other laws such as Criminal Justice Act flow, while both laws envisage bail as processes of equity and fairness.”

Bako Adamu

Civil servant and legal Practitioner, wondered if justice is actually for the highest bidder as was often the case in Nigeria. He explained that Sanda was facing Criminal offence with capital punishment, stating that she could be detained for as long as she would spend in jail if convicted.

He added that it was insufficient that she was granted bail on health conditions, while explaining that an accused could be detained for her own safety.  He feared anything could happen to the accused to the extent that criminal proceedings would have been disrupted.

“Beyond signing a bond to admit an accused to bail is the safety of the accused.  God forbid, if anything happens to the accused, it becomes disruptive to criminal proceedings and that is why law allows detention’’, he explained.

Jibrin Saad

A lawyer at the Centre for Social Justice, Abuja, made reference to section 1(1) of the Constitution which states, “This constitution is Supreme and its provision shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

He added that section 36(5) succinctly put that every person who is charged with criminal offence is innocent until proven guilty, noting that Sanda remain innocent until the court pronounced her guilty. He wondered if an ‘‘innocent person’’, should not be granted bail.

‘Except I have been referred to that part of our laws that prohibits bail, otherwise, I strongly disagree with those who said, Sanda’s should not be bailed.  Take it that she continued in detention and at last, she was discharged and acquitted, how would government who was the prosecutor compensate her for illegal detention.  That’s why we will continue to have judgement debts’, Saad explained.

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