AG, counsel trade words over detention of PDP members
• Party to protest against arrest
The Edo State Attorney General, Henry Idahagbon has declared that the detention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s members in the state is constitutional.The AG made the clarification in response to a petition by counsel to the accused persons, Olayiwola Afolabi.
In the petition to the Chief Justice of the Federation and the Executive Director, National Human Rights Commission, Olayiwola accused Idahagbon of abusing the power of his office to the detriment of his clients.The PDP’s governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, had alleged that 13 of his supporters in Ovia North East Local Council area were being persecuted for supporting him.
Afolabi alleged that the AG used the privilege of his office to substitute the charges against his client, so as to keep them in perpetual detention.The petition stated that the police arrested and arraigned his clients in Charge No: ONEACC/14c/16/2016, on August 17, 2016 for misdemeanor and assault, both offences of which qualify for bail.
The counsel said, however, that the AG took over the prosecution from the police and arraigned them on a trumped up charge of attempted murder, leading to their detention. He explained other framed charges to include, promoting inter-communal war and war-like undertaking against members of Egbeta community, an offence that is punishable under Sections: 324, 320 (1), 516 and 42 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Defunct Bendel State of Nigeria 1975.
He said: “The AG never investigated the case and his office is not that of the Commissioner of Police in charge of such cases. The court had directed that the police handover the case file to the office of the state’s AG. “But this could only have been done after an arraignment and plea had been taken. But the essence of the AG’s mischief was to ensure that the accused persons were remanded in prison,” he said.
Idahagbon has, however, insisted that he did not arrogate any illegal power to himself. He said the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers him to take over the prosecution of any case and at any stage whatsoever, as the Attorney General of the state.
“I am doing my duty in Edo State; a duty imposed by law. I will defend myself whenever I am called upon to do so,” he said.The AG alleged: “The accused persons shot at the Commissioner of Sports, Mr. Priestly Ediagbonya and others with him, with the intention to commit murder. In law, if you shoot at a person, it is an attempted murder. The police at Okada were compromised,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has vowed to protest against the alleged illegal detention. The state chairman of the party, Dan Orbih, made the vow at a rally of party supporters at a depot in Ogbeson quarters, near Benin City.
He described the incident at Okada, in Ovia North East Local Council area, where 13 PDP youths were arrested on trumped-up charges as unacceptable.Orbih said: “This week is the last we would allow the state Attorney General to change the charges against our members mid-stream. If it continues, we shall take to the streets to protest against the arrest by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government.”