Some lawyers on Wednesday advised the Federal Government to presume suspected treasury looters innocent until found guilty, in an effort to uphold the rule of law.
The lawyers gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
They reacted to the recently released list of the alleged looters by the government.
A lawyer and social critic, Mr Spurgeon Atene, said that the release of the list before pronouncement of guilt from the court did not promote the principle of separation of powers of the three arms of government.
Atene, the Head of Civil Litigation Department of L’avocat Legal Practitioners, said that the release could `gag’ independent decisions that should be taken by the court.
Atene noted that Nigeria’s Constitution provided for presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“Therefore, the list can only be alleged.
NAN reports that the Federal Government recently released a list of some persons who allegedly looted the nation’s treasury.
The list contained names, amounts involved, date the amount was allegedly collected and where it was allegedly taken from.
Atene noted that some of those on the list, including former governors, ex-ministers and ex-bankers, were already undergoing trial for alleged corruption.
Atene said that the list could tarnish the image of the alleged looters, some of whom might not be found guilty at the end.
“Before such a list can be released, there must be a conclusion that they have been found guilty by a competent court of law.
“Even if they have been arraigned, it cannot amount to a verdict of guilty”.
“In the court of public opinion, it appears they have been pronounced guilty,’’ he told NAN.
Ataene called on the Federal Government to allow the alleged looting to go through legal process.
“Legal process should roll without unnecessary impediments and disruption.”
A rights activist, Mr Olusegun Williams, said that the release of the list was unnecessary.
He said that many persons on the list were already being prosecuted or interrogated by anti-graft agencies.
Williams also appealed to the Federal Government to allow the court to give a verdict before releasing such a list.