by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
The Plateau State Government is constrained to refute and correct the misconception and misinformation contained in a press statement issued by the Nigerian Bar Association, Jos Branch, issued by its Chairman, Yakubu S. Bawa, Esq., on 20th August, wherein several issues (albeit incorrectly) were raised against the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG.
This clarification would not have been necessary, but for the fact that the weighty allegations are coming from a professional body like the NBA of which the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG, is a proud member, one-time official and serious stakeholder, having earned his place in the noble profession.
A statement signed and notarized issued to newsmen in Jos by the Commissioner for Information and Communication Hon. Dan Manjang, the matters raised in the press said the statement, if left un-countered, could condense in the minds of right-thinking Nigerians and probably be considered factual with the tendency to cast the Governor in bad light, thereby injuring both his hard-earned reputation and the credibility of his Administration.
According to him, the summary of the 3-paged press statement centres on concerns raised by the NBA Jos Branch to what it alleged to be Media Reports credited to the Governor, to the effect that, said “has issued a firm instruction to concerned authorities to decline the grant of bail to those arrested in connection to the mob action meted on the Bauchi-Ondo bound commuters, enroute Rukuba Road Jos North LGA, Plateau State.”
He said, in the same vein, the statement categorically gave a marching order to security operatives to arrest any person that seeks to secure the release of such suspects on bail.
For the avoidance of doubt and for the benefit of those, who were not present at the High Level Stakeholders Meeting held at the Victoria Gowon Hall of the Government House Rayfield, the Governor gave an opening address during which he highlighted a number of issues relating to the resurgence of attacks, particularly in Bassa, Jos North, Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Jos South Local Government Areas.
One of them was his frustration over what he described as the unfortunate report from the Security Agencies, which indicated that some suspects earlier arrested in connection with various Capital Offenses (preceding the Bassa and Rukuba Road incidents), were granted bail only to be fingered as having a hand in most recent attacks.
This much was confirmed to journalists by the Plateau State Commissioner, Edward Egbuka, after the security meeting of 3rd August 2021 in which he said, “There are records of leaders that are on bail temporarily, and some of them have been fingered in this present attacks. Nobody will be spared.”
What the Governor clearly expressed was a frustration with this development, saying that, his warning was to those who stand Surety for such suspects to realise the danger of the fact that some of the persons for whom they stand Surety without necessary background checks, turn out to be fingered in other crimes, while on bail.
“In fact, the Governor shared his frustration with the Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Yakubu Gyang Dakwak, who was also present at the event. He neither directed the denial of bail to suspects indicted in the Rukuba Road incident, nor ordered the arrest of those who attempt to seek their bail,” he noted.
“Against the foregoing background, to therefore suggest that his Excellency ordered bail to be denied deserving suspects or that those who come to seek bail for others be arrested, is completely incorrect,” he stated.
“This is clearly an interpretation of his intervention that was clearly taken out of context and garnished with innuendos to suit certain preconceived narratives. The said allegations attributed to the Governor are, therefore, not true and should be discountenanced by the public.
“The Governor being a Member of the Legal Profession will not associate himself with any pronouncement that is against the tenets of the Constitution or at variance with the Fundamental Human Rights of the Citizens that he has sworn to protect. Besides, he has no intention to arrogate to himself any powers that he does not possess, such as deciding who gets or is denied Bail,” he stressed.
According to him, with this hindsight and the avalanche of information available to the Governor as the “Chief Security Officer” of the State, his frustration as elucidated earlier stands to be clearly understood by right-thinking members of the society without the risk of any embellishment and out-of-context interpretation.
“We take this opportunity to assure the NBA Jos Branch that the Governor remains a defender of the Constitution and of Human Rights, having assumed this responsibility by the Oath he took as Governor of Plateau State and by the virtue of his status as a former Law Maker and one that has his roots in the legal profession,” he stated.
The statement also stated, “If the NBA Jos Branch sought clarification and exercised restraint, their Press Statement would have been unnecessary. We appeal to the Members of the Learned Profession to endeavour to fact-check issues, in order to avoid being drawn into matters that may not be helpful at times like this.
“We hope this explanation sets His Excellency, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG, Executive Governor Of Plateau State and, by the grace of God, Chairman, Northern Governors Forum on the same page with the NBA, Jos Branch and beyond.”