The chairman of the Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Pius Oiwoh, has knocked the Edo State government over its plan to set up mobile court to try suspected looters of COVID-19 palliative warehouses and arsonists in Benin, the state capital.
The mobile court, which is supposed to be located at the premises of the state police headquarters, would conduct the trial of some persons arrested for allegedly damaging public and private property during the recent #EndSARS protests.
Recall that irate mob had for several days invaded several warehouses to cart away COVID-19 palliatives and also attacked private property, setting some on fire leading to various arrests.
Oiwoh however described as unacceptable the government’s decision to try the suspects in mobile courts when there are existing conventional courts that could hear such matters.
The NBA chairman noted that using the police headquarters as a venue for the trial would compel those in charge of the mobile court to carry out the orders of the law enforcement agents, stressing that the charges cannot be heard summarily.
According to Oiwoh, “These are matters that cannot be heard summarily. These are matters where for instance, the defendants may say they are not guilty and ought to be granted bail. In such instances, they will go home and the matter will be adjourned for hearing. The defendants will have an opportunity of calling his witnesses to explain to the court where they were as at that time.
“Now, when you set up a mobile court, it is with the expectation to hear them and declare them summarily guilty or not guilty and then send them to prison. It is not supposed to be like that.”