The Presumption of Innocence vs The Presumption of Guilt; The Nigerian Bail Story.

In Nigeria, every person (including suspects and defendants/accused persons) is assumed to be innocent until a court declares a person guilty. This is a constitutional right that should not be violated by any person (including law enforcement agencies, institutions, leaders and government). However, the reverse is the case, with overzealous law enforcement agencies, going in the circles of; abuse, arrest, abuse, detain and abuse again before taking the suspect to court (if the suspect is fortunate to be arraigned). In Nigeria, “Bail” is mostly seen in law books and movies, since many suspects are detained without bail for weeks in all parts of Nigeria and lawyers get beaten up for seeking bail for clients. This work reveals the quickest means of obtaining bail after 24 hours of arrest in any part of Nigeria.

There is a big gap between criminal law and human rights as contained in our law books and as applied in reality. There are three groups of law enforcement agents in Nigeria; the first group understands the law and applies it thoroughly, the second group understands the law but will not apply it due to corruption, nepotism and fear while the third group does not understand the law and does not care. Unfortunately, the last group seems to be dominating followed by the second group, as such human rights suppressed. Among the concerned human rights are; right to life, right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to fair hearing and right to freedom of movement.

The essence of bail is to enable a suspect to go home and about his affairs while ensuring the suspect will at a later date, appear in a given place (like the office of a law enforcement agency or in court for investigation or to answer to his case). Bail is not a privilege or favour done to a suspect rather a right of a suspect. Remember that a suspect is not guilty so he/she should not suffer or be treated as if he is guilty. Consequently, a suspect that is detained for an offence not punishable with death (non-capital offences) is entitled to bail within 24 hours of being arrested.

The police (any law enforcement agency) time for detaining a suspect arrested for an offence that is not to be punished with death (non-capital offences) is 24 hours. Time starts counting from the moment a person is arrested, ceased or appears to answers an invitation of a law enforcement agency (whatever the language/term, so far as a person is no longer free). So, once a suspect is arrested, the law enforcement agency must ensure that its further investigation, bio-data capturing, granting of bail and seeking for advice, approval and any indoor management/protocol is completed within 24 hours. Where a suspect is detained beyond 24 hours for an offence that is not punishable with death, the suspect can be granted bail by a court having jurisdiction over the offence.

In Nigeria, a detained person may not be allowed to approach a court to seek his own bail or to even access a lawyer of his/her choice, by overzealous law enforcement agents working on ignorance or corruption. Hence, where a suspect is not granted bail by a law enforcement agency within 24 hours over a non-capital offence, any person can go to court and 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. Where the court desires, the court will grant bail to the suspect. The required application for bail in court, can be written or oral, even if the court is a superior court (High Court/Federal High Court/National Industrial Court).

It is better to engage a lawyer to assist with bail application in court. Bail is a right and not a favour. Bail is free because it is a constitutional and fundamental human right, provided freely by the Constitution of Nigeria. Report any law enforcement agent, court staff, magistrate, judge or legal practitioner that request for money/gift in order to grant bail. However, a legal practitioner is entitled to charge for his legal services but no to charge any fee to be paid as bribe or gift for bail.

My authorities are:

1. Sections 32, 161, 162, 163, 164, 494 and 495 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and its equivalent in states across Nigeria.
2. Sections 34, 35, 36, 230, 237, 249, 255, 260, 265, 318 and 319 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
3. Judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on the nature and effect of Bail) in the case of SULEMAN & ANOR v. COP PLATEAU STATE (2008) LPELR-3126(SC)
4. Judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on bail) in the case of UGWU v. STATE (2020) LPELR-49375(SC)
5. Judgement of the Court of Appeal (that every person is presumed innocent) in the case of ALAYA v. STATE (2007) LPELR-8841(CA) citing Eyu v. The State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.78) 602 at 610, Abiola v. FR.N. (1995) 7 NWLR (Pt.405) 1 at 155
6. Judgment of the Court of Appeal (on whether bail can be granted in non-capital offences) in the case of OGEDE v. FRN (2018) LPELR-46816(CA)
7. Judgment of the Court of Appeal (on whether bail can be granted in capital offences) in the case of OGEDE v. FRN (2018) LPELR-46816(CA)
8. Judgment of the Court of Appeal (that oral bail application can be made in any court, including courts of record) in the case of Chief Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Abiola V. Federal Republic of Nigeria (1995) NWRL PART 370 P.155.
9. James Ezeh, “Nigerian Lawyer Hospitalised after Police Assault, NBA Demands Justice” (Premuim Times, 13 October 2019) 1 September 2020.


The Presumption of Innocence vs The Presumption of Guilt; The Nigerian Bail Story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top