Sowore vs FG: Lawyers divided over stringent bail condition

Sowore was granted a N100million bail with two sureties, who must be resident in Abuja and also have landed property in the city.

The preferred against Sowore include conspiracy to commit treasonable felony, contrary to section 516 of the criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under the same section of the Act.

Seyi Sowemimo SAN

Treason is grave offence which could result in a death sentence and for this reason it is legitimate for the Court to impose stringent bail conditions. The stringency of the conditions will depend on the strength of the evidence which appears to be available to establish the offence.Bail is always a matter of discretion for the judge handling the case based on certain established legal principles.

However, section 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act prescribes that the terms of bail to be granted should be liberal and not excessive. Once the terms of bail are too stringent or excessive, then it amounts to a denial of bail. In Sowore’s case, it all depends on the facts presented before the court during the argument of his bail. Generally however, bail conditions should not be commercialized or made or be too onerous as that in itself may become a punishment.

Monday Ubani

“We need to understand the purpose or the purport of bail in criminal proceedings. It is to ensure the attendance of the Accused Person in the subsequent criminal proceedings. If we agree on that, it then means that giving onerous bail conditions by any judge is prejudicial. By imposing burdensome bail conditions, the judge is assumed to have discarded the presumption of innocence that the constitution guarantees to an accused person.

We agree that bail to a person accused of heinous crimes like treason and treasonable offences is at the discretion of the judge but it must be emphasized that the bail conditions should not amount to denial of bail. In my view the bail condition imposed by the judge in Sowore’s trial, is pure denial of bail for it appears impossible to be complied with. It is disproportionate and amounts to a denial.

The legal team is advised to seek for a variation of the onerous bail condition as imposed. Two reliable sureties with means of livelihood who are within jurisdiction should suffice if you ask me.”

Wahab Shittu

“Generally conditions imposed on bail are designed to achieve only one purpose- guarantee the attendance of the defendant in court to face his trial. Bail is not expected to be punitive. The conditions attached to the bail appear punitive and counsel is entitled to apply for a review of the bail conditions. I am reluctant commenting on the merits of the case since same is subjudice

Yemi Oladele
circumstances of the case before the court. Every judge is in control of its court. What a court may refuse another may grant it depending on the angle it is viewed. There is no hard and fast rule to conditions of bail since the constitution of Nigeria presumes every defendant to be innocent until otherwise proved.

This principle is always considered by our judges.As far as criminal jurisprudence is concerned, granting or refusal of bail is solely at the discretion of the court having considered the facts andOn the aproportionate of the bail granted to Sowore and the charges he faces before the court, it is an issue before the court which in the interest of justice, is subjudice.

Whatever is before a competent court will be resolved by either the lower or higher courts. There are various options available to the defendant which his legal team will follow. There are differences between filing of a charge against defendant and proving of the charges beyond reasonable doubt. That must have prompted presumption of innocence in our ground norm.”

David Fadile

“This is not a bail conditions but severe punishment. The jurisprudential basis behind conditions attach to bail by the court is to secure the attendance of the accused person in court for his criminal trial. When a court begin to include in its bail ruling conditions such depositing N100m in a designated account such as it was witnessed in Sowore’s case, it has defeated the intention behind attaching conditions to bail.

The courts in Nigeria should be above board and stop dancing to the whims and caprices of the executive in the discharge of their constitutional duties. I am of the view that the counsel to Sowore should approach the court for a review of the conditions attach to his bail.”

“The gravity of the offence charged is just one out of other conditions a court takes into cognisance in granting bail. Even though treasonable felony is a capital offence, at this stage, it is a mere allegation as there is a presumption of innocence of the defendant as enshrined in the constitution. The essence of Bail is to ensure the attendance of the defendant in court to stand his trial.

Clearly Justice Ojukwu is being careful not to be seen as having refused bail to Sowore. But that was exactly what she did. Recall the stories that justice Taiwo who had earlier granted Sowore bail was to appear before the NJC. A bail term of N100 million deposit is very stringent and aimed at refusing Sowore bail. His legal team is set to apply for a variation of the bail term. The judge clearly refused bail but does not want to do so clearly because she wants to be pro government.

”Morah Ekwunoh

“Certainly, while I am not of the subscription to the perception, in the legal community, of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu’s bail conditions given to Omoyele Sowore as being draconian, same cannot be said of their being stringent, bearing in mind community appraisal of the principles guiding bail grants and the high standard of proof beyond all reasonable doubts, among others, as required in criminal trials of this nature.Such guiding principles, as captured and encapsulated in the long and unbroken chain of Supreme Court decisions, most of which are mentioned hereunder,

principally include: (i) The nature of the charge; (iI) The strength of the evidence which supports the charge; (iii) The previous criminal record of the defendant, if any; (iv) The possibility that the defendant may not submit himself for trial; (v) The likelehood of the defendant’s interference with witnesses, or may suppress any evidence that may incriminate him; and (vi) The likelihood of further charge(s) being brought against the defendant.

Babatunde

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