Human right activists and constitutional lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has condemned the Nigerian legal system for favouring the rich over the poor.
He lamented that the country’s bar and bench as well as the criminal justice system works in favour of the rich as against the poor.
Speaking at the 2019 law week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Epe branch in Lagos State, he lamented that the country’s legal system treats the rich with respect.
According to Falana: “By virtue of section 17 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
“But in practice, the rich and poor defendants are not treated equally by Nigerian courts. Apart from the fact that rich litigants have the means to hire the services of the best lawyers in any area of the law, the courts are manned by judges who are not neutral in the class struggle being waged daily by the Nigerian people.
“Notwithstanding that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been accused by the bourgeois media of engaging in Gestapo tactics with respect to the treatment of suspects, it cannot be denied that the rights of influential criminal suspects are well respected by the commission.”
He stated that the rich defendants have continued to frustrate their prosecution by conniving with some senior lawyers.
The activist lamented that rich suspects do apply to be kept in EFCC’s cells rather than police and prison cells.
He said: “The big men and women implicated in allegations of serious economic crimes being investigated by the commission usually receive polite letters of invitation, telephone calls or text messages advising them to contact named investigators whose telephone numbers are supplied.
“If and whenever influential criminal suspects report themselves they are treated with the utmost courtesy by the investigators. Since they are presumed innocent until they are proved guilty by the State they are never paraded before the media, regardless of the gravity of the offence committed by them.
“Unlike what obtains in western countries it is infra dignitate to subject big men and women to the restraint of handcuff in Nigeria. Hence, hell was let loose when a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party on trial for money laundering was recently handcuffed by the Kuje prison authorities.”