*Wants Fair Hearing
· Criminal charge not conviction or conclusive proof of guilt – Gbajabiamila
· Human life, dignity at stake – Reps Okechukwu, Ningi
The House of Representatives, has resolved to invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz; and the acting Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Issa Jere, to brief the lower chamber on necessary actions taken regarding the arrest and arraignment of former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Nwanneka, who equally in detention in London.
The House further directed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Nigerian High Commission in London to ensure that the couple and the alleged 15-year old minor, Ukpo David, are given with all consular services as they may require in this critical time.
The lawmakers also enjoined federal government agencies and relevant corporate bodies, especially the NIMC, NIS, and banks to be speedy in making available all legitimately requested information to assist in the quick resolution of the charges against Ekweremadu and his wife.
The lawmakers equally urged the Federal Ministry of Health and the Nigerian High Commission in the UK to provide care for Ekweremadu’s daughter pending the outcome of the court case.
The resolutions were consequent a motion sponsored by Hon. Abdullahi Abdulkadir Ningi and seconded by Hon. Haruna Mshelia at the plenary on Tuesday.
In moving a motion of urgent national importance, Hon. Ningi said the House had noted the arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, a Nigerian citizen and serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate and former Deputy Speaker and Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and his wife by the metropolitan police in the United Kingdom.
He said the House was aware that the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had since charged the Ekweremadu’s of offences relating to human trafficking and exploitation and have had them detained pending the determination of the jurisdiction issues by the Attorney-General of England and Wales.
He further said that the intent of his motion was for justice and fairness of all the parties involved.
Ningi said: “Aware of Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s unblemished record as a constitutional lawyer, ranking legislator at the highest level in Nigeria, west Africa sub-region and various international parliamentary bodies and foremost advocate of the right and dignity of man.
“Also aware that Dr. (Mrs.) Ekweremadu has had a flawless career in Nigeria’s federal public service, rising to the rank of Director.
“Mindful of the value of human life. It is imperative that Miss Ekweremadu who has a life-threatening ailment is not allowed to come to harms way due to the unavailability of parental care owing to their continuous detention in the United Kingdom.
“We cannot have a situation where allegation that has not been thoroughly investigated would result in a high-ranking public officer, who has served and is still serving the Nigerian public, the Nigerian state being treated like this; and he has a diplomatic passport. We cannot allow this to happen. If it can happen to some of Ekwemadu’s status, I wonder what would happen to ordinary Nigerians.
“The House is, however, hopeful that the authorities in the UK would work with their national security and intelligence counterparts in Nigeria to conduct a holistic and thorough investigation to ascertain all the facts relating to the allegations in order to make a fair determination on the issues in the best interests of equity and justice for all concerned”.
Adding his voice, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu frowned at a situation where anybody, whether highly or lowly placed, is unduly and hastily made to suffer some jeopardy before determining his guilt or innocence.
“This matter is a matter that has to do with freedom. It has to do with the right and dignity of man. It has to do with justice for all. It has to do with fairness.
“Mr Speaker, Hon colleagues, you are aware, as a lawyer, that there is a presumption of innocence and in that presumption, the law deals with reasonable doubt, beyond all reasonable doubt. Even though we are not talking about conviction here, the law presupposes you have to hear the other side. And as the facts are emerging, it is very clear or there is an alternative narrative that shows that what may have been relied on in the haste may not be the truth.
“Mr. Speaker, as a holder of Nigerian diplomatic passport, should he not be availed the use of that? More also is the fact that there should also be consular services to Mr Ukpo, who is claiming to be a child, so the facts are completely ascertained,” Okechukwu stated.
Addressing plenary earlier, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said that criminal charge does not constitute a conviction or conclusive proof of guilt, and therefore charged the Nigerian High Commission to avail the Ekweremadus every necessary support needed to defend themselves.
“We will all do well to remember that a criminal charge does not constitute a conviction or conclusive proof of guilt. This is merely the beginning of the judicial process to substantiate the fact of the allegation and gather sufficient evidence to sustain the charges therein.
“Until the process is concluded, and even then, let us keep in mind that at the heart of this matter, there are human beings and fellow citizens whose lives have taken a turn none of us would every wish for ourselves.
“I ask the Nigerian High Commission to avail Senator Ekweremadu and his family all necessary defence and support that he will need to defend himself. Indeed I have spoken to the High Commissioner in the UK. I still spoke with him this morning and he has been very proactive. He has done all that needs to be done. The Queen’s Counsel has been made available to Ekweremadu. He has access to him. The Nigerian High Commission is doing all that is necessary to make sure that Senator Ekweremadu is given the full opportunities, rights and privileges that he would need to defend himself”, Gbajabiamila concluded.
All contributors, including the Deputy Whip, Hon. Nkiru Onyejeocha, spoke in support of the motion, which was unanimously passed by the House.