Lawyers say states don’t need special fiat to prosecute terrorists - OPID News

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Sunday, 18 April 2021

Lawyers say states don’t need special fiat to prosecute terrorists

 Lawyers say states don’t need special fiat to prosecute terrorists

Some lawyers have said that governors of the North-East states combatting Boko Haram terrorism do not need a special fiat before they can prosecute alleged members of the terrorist sect.

This is in reaction to the claim by the governors of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, who — speaking to Sunday PUNCH through their Commissioners of Justice and Attorneys-General — said that they are waiting for a special fiat from the Federal Government before they can prosecute insurgents, claiming that

the one issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in 2016 is not enough to prosecute suspected terrorists.

Lawyer and public affairs analyst, Mr Liborous Oshoma, has said that the governors are playing a blame game.

Oshoma noted that the governors have the powers to prosecute criminal offenders in their respective states and do not need any order from the AGF’s office.

“We are not in the habit of punishing criminality here,” he said, “We always find a way to dress it. That is why you see this back and forth. In some cases, some of these criminal acts committed in these states do not even need a fiat of the attorney general of the federation to prosecute. Murder, for example, is a crime against the state. So, if somebody kills another, if you cannot prosecute him for terrorism, you can prosecute him for murder.”

According to Oshoma, some of those who become terrorists are jobless fellows.

He said that a country under a good government would not have a pool of unemployed youths from whom terrorist groups can source recruits.

“If we really want to punish criminality,” Oshoma said, “fiat won’t be a problem. So, I see this (request for special fiat) as a lack of willpower to do what is right. I also think that some of these state governors are scared of the backlash; they don’t have the facilities to keep some of these persons, so they want full support. They should look for another name for it and not fiat because they already have the power to prosecute some of these offences.”

Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Chukwunyere Uruakpa, opined that northern states do not need a fiat from the Federal Government before prosecuting alleged terrorists.

Uruakpa said that acts that constituted federal offences like terrorism, unlawful possession of firearms, kidnapping, and others have long been criminal laws of the states.

He said, “In Lagos State, Sections 403 and 404 of Criminal Law of Lagos State 2015 provides for/stipulates what terrorism is and the punishment for same. Lagos State can conveniently prosecute such. In the same vein, any other state of the federation that has similar provisions can prosecute person(s) who are alleged to be involved in the said crime (terrorism and other federal offences).

“However, in this particular instance, the extant laws of the various states, whether the Penal Code or other Criminal Laws of States, will suffice; especially because some of them provide for capital punishment. So, what the northern governors and their Attorneys General need is to know how to prosecute suspected terrorists without waiting for any special fiat. Again, where any law provides for fiat from the AGF to prosecute a case, that fiat ought to be properly given.”

Though the governors of these northern states have claimed to be waiting for a special fiat, The Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr Umar Gwandu, and some state Attorneys General confirmed to our correspondents on Thursday that the minister wrote all the states’ Attorneys-General, giving states the permission to prosecute suspects arrested for federal offences in their jurisdiction.



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