#Opinion: The Police, Law and Your Right By Evans Ufeli

#Opinion: The Police, Law and Your Right By Evans Ufeli

Mfonobong Akpan

The police force is a critical institution in the organisation of any society where law and order is expected to prevail unrestrained. The Police, everywhere in the world provides services that touches on human lives. In Nigeria,the police force has encountered a number of challenges some of which relates to recruitment, training, inefficiency, corruption and Indiscipline.

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 order 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 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 order 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 about to appear before a court at the time and place named in the recognizance.

If a person being so taken into custody as aforesaid, it appears to the officer that the inquiry into the case, and cannot be completed forthwith he may discharge the said person on his entering into recognizance with or without sureties for amount to appear at such police station and at such time as are named in the recognizance. When any person has been in custody without warrant, for an offence order than an offence punishable with death, the officer in charge of the police station or other place for the reception of the arrested person to which such a person is brought shall, if after inquiries is completed he is satisfied that there is no sufficient reason to believe such person.

With the combine effect of both the constitution and statutory provisions it can be deduced that where a complainant against an accused person does not disclose facts which makes his offence punishable with death, he should be granted bail by police within twenty four hours upon entering into recognizance with or without surety. 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 when once his identity, address of place of abode and work are disclosed and they are confirmed to be true.

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 from the accused or his surety, if only, by court only 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 agent with money and other valuables to gain freedom in the event of arrest. You are entitled to bail where the offence so committed is not punishable by death. We have erroneously made our lives such that vulnerable to all sorts such that police men capitalise on our ignorance to unleash terror on us. The state powers which they exercise is 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 harass you or coarse anyone in your presence take down his or her name. Their names are tagged on their uniforms. Write a petition against him or involve a 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 network media 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.

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