The House of Representatives, yesterday, cautioned the Nigeria Police to ensure that Ms Chidimma Ojukwu, who is being held in connection with the death of late Usifo Ataga, does not die in their custody.
The House also urged the police to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder incident and refrain from parading “Ms. Chidinma around to grant interviews” on a matter under investigation.
The Green Chamber also urged the Inspector General of Police(IGP), Usman Baba, to caution all police personnel against violation of the rights of suspects through media trials, so as not to compromise cases in law courts.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Tolu Akande-Sadipe, calling for compliance of the police force with extant laws in the investigation into the death of late Ataga.
Akande-Sadipe, in a motion, informed the House that Ms Ojukwu, a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), was arrested on June 23, 2021, over the murder of Ataga, who was until his death, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Super TV, in a service apartment in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
The lawmaker noted that since her arrest, the suspect has been paraded around, granting interviews to several news platforms, including the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
She added that owing to the parade, the internet and news media have been agog with the discussion about the incident, even when investigation is still ongoing.
She said: “The law of Nigeria does not allow for social media trials, and matters that are subjudice (meaning before the court or not yet judicially decided) are not to be discussed by the media.
“Cognisant that Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
Thus, so long as Ms. Ojukwu has not been proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, she is not to be labeled a criminal, or paraded about to conduct a series of interviews on a case currently under investigation.
“Rather, the police are to conduct a proper investigation and allow the court to consider the matter and make an informed judgment.”
Akande-Sadipe expressed concern “that if Ms. Ojukwu continues to be paraded about for a social media trial, it could affect the determination and outcome of the case, as well as amount to a breach of her fundamental right to fair hearing, especially where she is labeled or treated as one guilty of a crime.”