The Right Of An Accused Person Under The Nigerian Legal System

Project and Seminar Material for Law

The Right Of An Accused Person Under The Nigerian Legal System


Under the Nigerian criminal justice the constitutional right of an accused person is enshrined in Section 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 such rights include, the right to be informed promptly in the language that he understands, the details and nature of the offence of the accused, the right to be given adequate time to prepare his defence, the right to defend himself in person or by legal practitioner of his own choice, the right to have an interpreter free of charge if he does not understand the language of the court, the right to have record of the proceeding kept and the right to have copies of this within seven days of the conclusion of the case, the right to remain silent during the trial, the right not to be tried and convicted twice for the same offence, the right to be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty and the right not to be charged for an unwritten offence. All these rights aimed at ensuring that an accused person is not unjustly dealt with.

Also the relevant provisions in CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT and the CHILD RIGHT ACT shed more light on the rights of an accused person in criminal trials. The thesis in its totality is channelled toward making sure that Nigerians are fully informed/aware of their rights especially the accused person and how it could be enforced. This project will not seek to look at the rights generally but most importantly the right of an accused person vis-a-vis the relevant provisions.

Table Of Contents

Preliminary Page(s)

  • Abstract
  • Table Of Contents
  • Table Of Cases
  • Table Of Statutes
  • List Of Abbreviations

Chapter 1

General Introduction:

  • 1.0.0: Introduction
  • 1.1.0: Back Ground To The Study
  • 1.2.0: Statement Of The Problem
  • 1.3.0: Objective Of The Study
  • 1.4.0: Purpose Of The Study
  • 1.5.0: Methodology
  • 1.6.0: Definition Of Terms
  • 1.7.0: Literature Review
  • 1.8.0: Conclusion

Chapter 2

The Concept Of Human Rights

  • 2.0.0: Introduction
  • 2.1.0: Historical Development Of Human Right In Nigeria
  • 2.2.0: Distinction Between Human Right And Fundamental Human Right
  • 2.3.0: Conclusion

Chapter 3

The Concept Of Rights Of An Accused Person

  • 3.0.0: Introduction
  • 3.1.0: The Right Of An Accused Under
  • 3.2.0: The Constitution
  • 3.3.0: The Right Of Criminal Procedure Code
  • 3.4.0: The Right Of Criminal Procedure Act
  • 3.5.0: The Juvenile Crime And The Child Right Act
  • 3.6.0: Conclusion

Chapter 4

Safeguard For The Right Of An Accused Person

  • 4.0.0: Introduction
  • 4.1.0: The Awaiting Trial Of An In-Mate As An Accused Person
  • 4.2.0: The Role Of Legal Aid Counsel, Bar Association
  • 4.3.0: Conclusion

Chapter 5

General Conclusion

  • 5.0.0: Conclusion
  • 5.1.0: Recommendations
  • Bibliography


Table Of Statutes


  • Child Right Act cap 50 LFN 2004
  • Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Cap 24, LFN 2004
  • Criminal Procedure Act, Laws of Southern Nigeria
  • Criminal Procedure Code, Laws of Northern Nigeria
  • Laws of Kwara State of Nigeria Vol.1 Cap 29
  • Legal Aid Act Cap.L9 Vol.8 LFN 2004
  • Promulgation of Cap.10 (Ratification and Enforcement ACT) LFN 1990

List Of Abbreviations

  • ABULSJ: Ahmadu Bello University Law Society Journal
  • AC: Appeal Cases
  • CAP: Chapter
  • FWLR: Federal Weekly Law Report
  • HRLRA: Human Right Law Reports of Africa
  • LFN: Law of the Federation of Nigeria
  • NCC: Nigeria Constitutional Cases
  • NCLR: Nigerian Constitutional Law Reports
  • NLR: Nigeria Law Reports
  • NSCQR: Nigerian Supreme Court Quarterly Report
  • NWLR: Nigeria Weekly Law Report
  • P: Page
  • SC: Supreme Court
  • UILSSJ: University of Ilorin Law Student Society Journal
  • Vol: Volume

Chapter 1

General Introduction

1.0.0: Introduction

When a suspect is described as having right, he is acknowledged to be entitled to something to which he has just claim under the law. By virtue of man’s creation, he has certain rights which are common to those of all other men. Most of the fundamental rights are in a sense natural right vested in every individual and to which he is entitled without any obligation or duty on the part of the government to provide facilities for their enjoyment. Moreover, all fundamental rights are in the final analysis rights, which impose limitations on executive, legislative or judicial powers of the government and are accordingly easily justifiable. Fundamental Human Right entails universal humanity which men enjoys and shares with his fellow men whether he is a suspect or a freeman. This in its totality has informed the writing of this project.

1.1.0: Background To The Study

Based on the adoption of universal declaration of Human Rights and the incorporation of fundamental human rights in our constitution, basic fundamental human rights have been created and which should be respected by all men in the Nigeria society. Unfortunately however, many people in our society face untold hardship day in day out because they are denied their basic rights, which normally the Constitution of Nigeria would enforce even though they are suspects but because they are unaware of these rights they rarely or never claim them. However, those who are saddled with these responsibilities fail to do their work properly. In this respect, this project will discuss some of the rights and the major rights of the suspects and how it could be known, respected and enforced properly by those concerned.

1.2.0: Statement Of The Problem

Even though there is a universal declaration of Fundamental Human Rights and Chapter IV of the Nigerian constitution in Fundamental Human Rights, the practicality has not been perfect because of the prevailing situation of unlawful treatment of suspects in the country.

It is unlawful to treat suspect any how simply because they are being regarded as suspects. This clearly shows that the judiciary is aware of the right of an accused person and that it is sacrosanct and cannot be taken away unlawfully in this country. The violations of these rights have been so rampant in Nigeria.

1.3.0: Objective Of The Study

  1. To study the relevance of the rule of law as a vital instrument for the protection and enjoyment of Fundamental Human Right by the people most especially an accused person, who is the main centre of this work.
  2. To know the principle of the rule of law, through which the rights of the accused can be respected and recognized by everyone.
  3. To enable the people know the best way to seek redress in the court of law whenever their rights are being infringed upon.

1.4.0: Purpose Of The Study

Ignorance as we all know is a disease, and has been earlier said, Nigerians generally are not well abreast of their legal rights even though it has been boldly written and spelt out in the Constitution of the country. But because every disease has a cure, the cure for the lack of awareness of these rights is the major purpose of this work particularly the right of an accused as stipulated in section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Which are: Right to silence, Right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, Right to an interpreter, Right to informed properly the nature and detail of the charge among others

1.5.0: Methodology

The method that will be used to carry out this work is descriptive and not analytical.

Major primary and secondary sources of law would be considered for the proper appraisal of this topic. The primary sources include the Constitution of the Federal

Republic of Nigeria, mainly Chapter IV and Section 35 and 36; the Criminal Procedure Code; the Criminal Procedure Act; and the Child Rights Act. The secondary source includes the International Articles on pro-bono services.

1.6.0: Definition Of Terms


One charged with an offence

Audi Alteram Partem:

The other party must be heard

Legal Aid:

Free or inexpensive legal services provided to those who cannot afford to pay full price. Legal Aid is usually administered locally by a specially established organization.

Nemo Debet Esse Judex In Propria Causa:

No one can be a judge in his own case

Pro Bono:

Being or involving uncompensated legal services especially for the
public good

Public Defender:

A lawyer or staff of lawyers, usually publicly appointed and paid, whose duty is to represent indigent criminal defendants


A person believed to have committed a crime or offence. To consider
wrong doing without certain truth

Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium:

Where there is a right there is a remedy

1.7.0: Literature Review

Jide Bodede1 opined that the right of fair hearing within a reasonable time is the fundamental right of every accused person guaranteed in the constitution. He emphasizes the importance of the right to fair hearing as entitled to everyone especially an accused person.

Adesiyan G.O2 on the right of an accused person to silence limiting his work to Nigeria says that while the police have a legal right to interrogate a suspect, any use of force made to make him answer a question is illegal and judges rule was introduce as a result of discuss.

Ibrahim Imam3 View on the constitutional safeguard for an accused person rights to fair trial in the Nigerian criminal justice write extensively on the duty of counsel to an accused person in criminal proceeding that he should devote himself completely to his task irrespective of what he may think of the charge.

To Onawola4 explained that where a bail condition is breached, the bail granted will be revoked if the accused is found supported with clear evidence to have interfered with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the cause of justice. Audi Jummai5 opined that human rights contained in the constitution will be meaningless if we cannot enforce its breaches (Ubi Jus Ibiremeduim).

1.8.0: Conclusion

A vibrant and effective criminal justice is an absolute necessity if law and order is to be maintained in any society. Under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the rights of an accused person standing trial for a criminal offence are fully guaranteed. The relevant sections are sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution. For an effective criminal justice to come to stay, the law is to adequately protect the accused person rights so that justice is not only done but seen to be done because the full weights of the laws tend to fall towards the accused.

Chapter 5

General Conclusion

5.0.0: Conclusion

It has been established that the constitution guarantees an accused persons right to fair hearing which is the pillar that other rights rest on. The attitudes of courts to the accused person’s right to fair hearing is generally founded upon the provision of Sections 35 and 36 of the Nigerian constitution 1999 as applied to every person charged with criminal offence.

We have been able to identify that the law seeks after the highest possible idea of justice and fairness and that has been the judicial attitude in criminal cases. Thus, the court is duty bound to uphold, enforce and enjoy the observance of this fundamental right as enshrined in the law.

The Legal Aid Council and the Nigeria Bar Association must work hand in hand with great passion for humanity to ensure that the right of an accused is being safeguarded to the fullest by seeing to it that fair hearing and fair trial is been given to the accused, so as to have a vibrant and effective criminal justice system.

Any civilized society must uphold the tenets of fair hearing and recognize that justice is indeed meant to be a three way traffic specifically justice to the victim, justice to the state and justice to the accused person, because all the full weight of the laws fall on the side of an accused person.

5.1.0: Recommendations

It is a known fact that the practicality of this discourse is a problem, so in view of this, the Federal Government, Judiciary, Law Enforcement Agents and equally the citizens of Nigeria should work together toward the practicality of these rights. There should also be material conditions of fundamental liberties for all. The citizens of Nigeria must endeavor to do a critical and proper study of what their right is, so that they could seek redress when those rights are breached.

The Federal Government must be made to observe the rule of law and not to violate the human rights of the citizen, in this regard the Nigeria government is call upon to ratify the convention against torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and should ensure that the awareness is created on the rights of its citizens and should encourage the law enforcement agents to uphold the constitution of the country.

The judiciary whose independence is a condition sine qua non for good functioning must be made to have direct access to its funds in terms of adequate salaries and improvement of laws courts system so that the rights will be implemented effectively. Judges should ensure liberal and effective enforcement of Fundamental Human Right and equally liberalize bail conditions. They should also assist citizens whose rights have been violated but do not have or cannot afford legal representation by referring them to the relevant NGOs, NBA, Office of Public Defenders, National Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Council. The Legal Aid scheme must be made to have more coverage for all indigents and adequate funds and personal calibre to man its affair.

Our courts should be increased in many folds and seriously updated to encourage trial and disposition of criminal matter cheaper and technicalities free, this will lead to an increase legal awareness. Access to court must be make easier and equally encourage citing of more court rooms near the prisons and police stations so that when any suspect feels that his rights have been breached they could easily go to court.

It would equally be a welcomed idea if the human rights activists could engage in mass education, awareness, campaigns and sensitization of citizens on human right issues to make every citizens of Nigeria most especially the suspect to know that they have a right under the law.

All Nigerians should work together towards attaining the international standard of the Practicality of the right of an accused because this is what is obtained in the developed countries of the world and Nigeria as a leading African nation should not be left out.

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