By Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.
The Nigerian Courts and some Security Agencies are in the practice of imposing high ranking civil servants as sureties in criminal matters. This practice with all due respect to my Lords, their Worships, their Honours and the head of security agencies does not conform to the extant law on the matter in Nigeria.
A cursory look at Sections 158 to 166 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015,which are relevant sections in the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of States, shows that sureties as provided by the laws, should be blood relatives of the defendants. While the law made references to blood relatives specifically, there is no portion where it mentioned civil servants or house owners, with certificates of occupancy.
This practice which is very obnoxious and unacceptable has led to the unwarranted detention of defendants in Correctional Facilities and in some cases death of some defendants in Correctional Facilities (Prison Custody). Bail is not an escape from justice, but an opportunity given to the defendant to prepare for his defence as provided for by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In actual fact, bail is a constitutional right, not a favour to be done by a judicial official or security agent. A cursory examination or comparative analysis of bail conditions in other parts of the world shows that the Nigerian Criminal Justice System is unnecessarily bureaucratic, manipulative and cruel to the ordinary man. In other parts of the World, whether you are rich or poor, you are arraigned in Court and go home that same day!
The Court of Appeal in the case of Dasuki V. Director-General, S.S.S. 10 NWLR PT.1731 PG. 136-143, in a split decision HELD: (Granting the application for variation of Bail by a majority decision of 2-1, AGIM, J.C.A. dissenting)
On Whether civil servants or public officers can be involved in bail of accused persons – Per ADAH, J.C.A. at page 153, paras. F-A: “Let me quickly say that of concern it is to us that as a court we must be ready and sensitive enough not to allow or do anything that will run foul of the law. The issue of involving civil servants or public officers in the public service of the Federation and the State in bail of people accused of criminal offences has never been the practice in Nigeria or any part of the civilized world. It was an oversight on our part to allow it in. Our Civil and Public Service Rules do not have any room for it. Expecting a Level 16 Servant to own property worth N100,000,000, will be running counter to the Public Service Rules and by extension the war against corruption. It is in this respect that I will act ex debito justitiae to ensure that the aspect of involving serving public servants not below the status of Level 16 Officer in either the state or Public Service of the Federation or any of its agencies be removed and I so order.”
The above staris decisis is the law as we speak in Nigeria, until same is set aside and it must be obeyed by all and sundry. Any Judge, Magistrates, President of Court or Official of Security Agencies still imposing civil servants on citizens is engaging in illegality. This obnoxious Practice must stop and heads of courts should bring it to the attention of the Judges and other judicial officers under them, same way the head of security agencies should do same.
We should do things the right way. As ministers in the temple of justice, our duty is to show light, so that others will see the way!
About the Author.
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq, @email@example.com is a Benin based lawyer and Writer, who is the Convener of the Vanguard for the Independence of the Judiciary.
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