Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Know Your Right: All You Need to Know About Bail in Nigeria (Part 1)

Every Nigerian must read this interesting information on bail that would help you to know your fundamental human rights.
Bail is a conditional freedom by which a person arrested for an offence is released on condition that he/she reports on the day and place certain wherever his presence is required.
There are two types of bail in Nigeria
1. Police bail
2. Court bail
When a person is arrested and taken to a police station, the officer in charge of the police station may admit the suspect to bail pending further investigation into the matter. The suspect (a person is a suspect until otherwise proven and can also be addressed as accused) is granted bail on the conditions that the suspect must fulfil before he can be allowed to leave the station.

Usually a surety is called who can fulfil all the bail conditions. He must sign a bond (a sum of money a person who stands as surety for the accused will forfeit if the accused fails or refuses to appear when so required). Sometimes the bond might be with a surety or without but most times, surety is required.
It takes time for police officers to conclude an investigation and the suspect cannot be detained indefinitely, hence the bail. Any person arrested by the police of committing any offence must be taken to court by the police within 24hrs or 48hrs or such longer period as is considered reasonable. Section 36(5) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria states “every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he’s proved guilty”. Until proven guilty by a law court, you are entitled to bail. But when a capital offence is alleged, for example Murder, Rape, Treason, bail shall not be granted to the offender.
We have bail in magistrate court and bail in high court. The power of court to admit an accused to bail depends on two factors;
i) the court before which the accused is being charged
ii) ii) the nature of the offence against the accused.
A court may admit to bail a person charged before it with the commission of an offence. The need for bail arises because of the interval of time between arraignment of the accused, taking of the evidence, conclusion of trial, return of verdict and sentence. Between arraignment and sentence, the accused may be admitted to bail on condition set out by the court.
Magistrate court cannot grant bail to an accuse person charged with a capital offence. Offences like murder, rape, treason etc. These are capital offences that only the high court has power to grant bail and this also depends on the jurisdiction. Bail is not granted in the northern part of Nigeria for capital offences. At the magistrate court, application for bail is usually done by a counsel (lawyer) orally. It need not be in writing once the accused has pleaded not guilty. Counsel to the accused applies for bail pending the determination of the case.
When the accused is not represented by a counsel, the court is obliged to grant bail even when the prosecutor raises objection to it. The court has a discretion to admit to bail or not taking into consideration the factors governing admission to bail.
At the high court, application for bail is always in writing. This is a court of record so every application is in writing. If bail is refused at the magistrate court, or conditions are too onerous (too difficult), the counsel to the accused can apply at the high court for a review. Terms of bail need not be onerous or excessive if not it will seem as if the person was denied bail by the court. Terms of bail need not difficult to fulfil. If difficult to fulfil, it amounts to no bail and de facto bail has been denied.
A suspect refused bail by the police may apply to high court to be admitted to bail and an accused person refused bail by a magistrate may apply to the high court to be admitted to bail. Where the high court refuses and application or affirm onerous terms, the suspect or accused can appeal to the court of appeal to be admitted to bail even up to supreme court if the person refused bail is disgruntled or aggrieved with the terms of the bail.
- Culled from Talk To A Lawyer

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