03 Jul 3 Things Every Nigerian Should know about Bail
1. Definition of Bail
Bail can be defined as the process whereby a person accused or being charged for the commission of an offence is released by the constituted authority who is detaining him, on the condition that he will appear or report to a police station or court or other identified location in future whenever his presence is required or so ordered.
2. Types of Bail
There are 2 broad types of bail in Nigeria, they are:
- Police or Administrative Bail
This is the type that is obtained by someone who is suspected of the commission of a crime. At this point in time the police or the government agency investigating the matter has not yet obtained enough evidence to charge the suspect to court.
The Nigerian 1999 Constitution provides that that an accused person who has been arrested on the allegation of having committed an offence must be charged to court within 24 hours where a court of competent jurisdiction is located within a radius of forty kilometers from the police station; and where a court is located within a radius above forty kilometers from the police station, the accused person must be charged to court within 48 hours or such longer period as a court might consider reasonable.
Therefore it is illegal and unconstitutional for a suspect to be detained for more than 48 hours by the police (or government agency) without bail or without charging the individual to court. Government agencies include agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) etc.
Also, POLICE BAIL is FREE, unfortunately unscrupulous officers still extort suspects and make them pay for ‘bail’ before they are released.
- Court Bail
Court bail, as the name implies, is granted by a court of law. Court bail can be granted in 2 scenarios – bail pending trial of the accused person, or bail pending the appeal of the accused.
- Bail pending trial is when the case against the accused person is still on-going, but the accused person is allowed to leave detention, until the end of the trial. This is founded on the principle of ‘presumption of innocence’. This is because an individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. In deciding whether or not to grant bail, the court looks at things like whether the proper investigation of the offence would be prejudiced if the accused person is granted bail, or whether the accused person is a flight risk, the health of the accused and whether he/she can get adequate medical treatment in custody etc.
- Bail pending appeal is where the person has been found guilty and he/she intends to appeal the conviction. This type is generally more difficult to obtain, this is because the presumption of innocence does not exist here again, as the person has been found guilty.
3. Bail conditions
Bail conditions are the conditions, which are set to ensure that the accused person presents himself/herself to the authorities when his/her presence is requested.
When a person is granted bail, some of the conditions for the grant of the bail may include:
- To appear in court at a certain date
- Living at a particular address
- Not contacting certain people
- Giving his/her passport to the Police or other law enforcement agency
- Reporting to a police station at agreed times, e.g. once a week
- Getting a surety (in Nigeria the courts prefer sureties with landed property in certain locations and who may or may not be civil servants on a certain level)
- That the surety undertakes to forfeit a certain amount of money in the event that the accused does not attend Court as required (recognizance)
If the accused person for some reason breaks the conditions, he/she may be arrested and have the bail revoked. If he/she jumps bail and there is a surety, then the surety would forfeit the recognizance, and the courts have the power to arrest a surety who refuses to pay the recognizance, unless the surety can show cause provide satisfactory evidence to the court that he is not to be blamed for the accused person jumping bail, and did everything in his/her power to prevent this from happening.
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