Daily Law Tips (Tip 630) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Remedy Of A Suspect Detained For More Than 24 Hours

In Nigeria, every person is assumed to be innocent until a court of law declares a person guilty (not innocent). What the media, law enforcement agencies, government, colleagues, employer, political party or neighbours think about a suspect does not matter. Also the amount of evidence (including videos and eye witnesses) concerning a suspect and an alleged offence does not make a suspect automatically guilty.

It is only a court of law that can declare a person guilty. So, every suspect in any law enforcement agency in Nigeria or any defendant in any court in Nigeria, is innocent and not guilty, until a court says otherwise. It is important that such persons are not punished rather pampered and respected with the budget allocated to the concerned law enforcement agency.

Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and similar state laws in states across Nigeria, a suspect must be released within 24 hours of being arrested, especially where the alleged crime is not punishable with death.

Where this is not done, any person can go to court/institute a case against the concerned law enforcement agency (and its agents) on behalf of the suspect. The court will order the suspect to be produced (brought to) court and inquire into the circumstances of the detention and where the court desires, the court will grant bail to the suspect. An application for bail in a court, can be written or oral, even if the court is a High Court/Federal High Court/National Industrial Court, where applications are often written and rarely oral.

Note that, the court to be approached to grant bail to a suspect that has been detained for more than 24 hours, must be a court that has jurisdiction (power) to entertain the crime that the suspect is detained for. For example, since a crime of fake passport can only be handled by the Federal High Court, the court that can be approached to release a suspect detained for more than 24 hours over issues of fake passport must be the Federal High Court and not a Magistrate Court or High Court.

By the way, the above does not affect the rights of a suspect to sue a law enforcement agency and its agents for breach of his fundamental human rights. In this, a suspect can seek huge monetary damages running into millions of Naira.

My authorities are:

1. Sections 32, 494 and 495 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and its equivalent in states across Nigeria.
2. Sections 34, 35, 36, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

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