The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chief Judge Justice Ishaq Bello has given an order to magistrates in the FCT to stop granting remand orders to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC has relied on FCT Magistrates Courts for remand warrants in order to keep in detention suspects being investigated for corruption and other economic crimes.
The anti-graft commission, last week, disclosed it had obtained a detention warrant from a Magistrates’ Court in the FCT, to keep the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, in custody pending investigation conclusion.
Justice Bello gave the directive yesterday during his visit to the Keffi Medium Prison, Nasarawa State.
“I understand that the EFCC has been bringing some cases to you and you have been granting them remand orders. You must no longer do this from today”, Justice Bello said.
“You must not arraign people for offences as armed robbery, murder and other capital offences before Magistrates’ Courts, which they don’t have competence to handle.
“On no account should you (referring to the magistrates at the event) take cognisance of cases outside your jurisdiction and which you do not have power to try.
“You must decline jurisdiction on such cases. You must not do this from today,” Justice Bello said.
He directed the magistrates, the prison authorities and FCT High Court’s Deputy Chief Registrar, Magistrates, Sunday Ochimana to compile such cases before Magistrates’ Court in the FCT for him to reassign to the High Court.
The judge’s position was informed by his realization, while reviewing cases of some awaiting trial inmates, that some of them were charged before the courts for capital offences.
One of such cases was that of Queen Usa, charged with conspiracy and armed robbery.
Justice Bello directed that the case be transferred to Court 18 of the High Court of FCT.
But Section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 allows magistrates to remand suspects on holding charge for two weeks.
Justice Bello, who reviewed about 322 criminal cases, freed five awaiting trial inmates on the grounds that they were being held unjustly.
Among the 322 inmates, 301 were from the medium prison (all male), while 21 were from the Old Prison in Keffi (for male and female).
Those in Justice Bello’s entourage were judges, magistrates and other top officials as well as prosecutors in the Federal Ministry of Justice, led by the Director of Public Prosecutors, Mr. Mohammed Diri, and Prosecutors from the Legal Department of the Nigeria Police Force.