The police force is a critical institution in the organization of any society where law and order is expected to prevail unrestrained. The police everywhere in the world provides services that directly impact on human lives. In Nigeria,the police force has encountered a number of challenges some of which relate to recruitment, training, inefficiency, corruption and indiscipline.
Facts About Bail
Bail is the release of an accused person who has been in a lawful custody. The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended stipulates that any person who is detained by the police for the purposes of bringing him before a court in execution of a court order or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence other than an offence punishable with death, or to prevent him from committing a criminal offence, shall be brought before such court of law within:
1. A period of one day where the court having jurisdiction over his case is within forty two kilometres; and
2. A period of two days where the court is within a distance beyond forty kilometres.
If he is not brought to a court of competent jurisdiction within this period, section 35 (4) of the constitution provides that he should be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date.
However, it is necessary to state that these conditions do not apply strictly to an accused person who is suspected to have committed an offence punishable with death. This constitutional provision can be found in other laws likes the Criminal Procedure Act in sections 17, 18 and 19 which provides as follows: When any person has been taken into custody without a warrant for an offence other than an offence punishable by death any officer in charge of the police station, may, in any case, and shall, if it will not be practicable to bring such person before a magistrate or justice of peace having jurisdiction with respect to the offence charged within twenty four hours after he was so taken into custody, inquire into the case and unless the offence appears to such officer to be of serious nature may discharge the person upon his entering of recognizance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount to appear before a court at the time and place named in the recognizance.
A Recognizance is a promise or undertaking made by an accused person to appear in the court of law or police station or any other place as he may be required by his undertaking. The law stipulates that on entering into such recognizance, even without a surety, the accused person is to be granted bail. It is not mandatory under the law that he should produce a surety once his identity, address of place of abode and work are disclosed and they are confirmed to be true.
Please note: Bail is not to be at any cost! It is to be granted FREE of charge. It is pertinent to note that the clause which says “upon entering into recognizance for a reasonable amount” does not contemplate that any deposit of money should be made to the police for bail. The amount so entered in the recognizance is a guarantee recoverable by the court from the accused or his surety, on default by the accused person.
Note however, that an individual who is arrested by the police is only but a suspect and is presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. Nigerians are hereby advised that it is unnecessary to shiver or beg law enforcement agents with money and other valuables to gain freedom in the event of an arrest. You are entitled to bail where the offence so committed is not punishable by death.
We have erroneously made our lives so vulnerable to all sorts such that police men capitalise on our ignorance to unleash terror on us. The state powers which they exercise are meant to protect the citizens not the other way round and you pay tax in return for this.
My advice is that once a policeman or any other law enforcement agent harasses you or coerces anyone in your presence take down his or her name. Their names are tagged on their uniforms. Write a petition against him or involve the law to enforce your fundamental rights. Capture the scene with a video recorder, attach the video footage to the petition and proceed. Go on the social media networks, upload the video footage and watch it go viral. That way, you will have made indelible expression that will incriminate such officers and they will be made to face the wrath of the law.
Be aware of your rights!
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About the Writer: Evans Ufeli is a lawyer and the author of acclaimed novel, ‘Without Face’. He is also an Alumni member of the Writers Bureau, Manchester, a highly sought-after conference speaker with a passion for the concept of change. He lives in Victoria Island, Lagos. You can contact him via Facebook: Evans Ufeli, Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @Evansufeli and Phone: 08037712353. He blogs at www.ethicsafrica4u.wordpress.com.