Criminal JusticeJustice Reform

Interrogating the Cumbersome Bail Process in the Federal High Court of Nigeria by Douglas Ogbankwa, Esq.

The Federal High Court all around Nigeria plays a prominent role in the Justice Delivery System in Nigeria.
It also occupies a premium place in the Administration of Criminal Justice System .

There is however a big snag in the court system which cuts across the whole divisions of the Court.

Firstly, the conditions for bail imposed by Judges of the Federal High Court are mostly excessive.
Why should almost every Defendant in the Court be asked to bring a Senior Civil Servant or a House Owner with a Certificate of Occupancy and sometimes both , when the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,2015, places premium on blood relatives to be Sureties to Defendants,who in the real sense are the ones that can secure the attendance of Defendants in Court.

This encourages professional sureties and costs the Defendants so much, some of whom are even victims themselves and could even be innocent . Many people have been wallowing in jail because of this avoidable scenario. We call for a change on all the issues highlighted above.

Another very curious procedure of the Court is to ask the Prosecution to verify the sureties This is injustice, it offends the Principle of Nemo Judex In Casua Sua: No Man shall be a Judge in his Own Cause.Why Should the Prosecution who is a Party in a Matter be doing the job of the COURT? This situation defies logic and common sense. We implore that verification of sureties from now, should be done by the Court Registry. The Bail Process is a Process of Court. This is even made worse as some Prosecuting Agencies frustrate the Process if a Defence Lawyer has been too assertive on the rights of the defendant at their Station.

When Bail is granted at the Federal High Court , that is where the nightmare of the Defendant commences.
A cumbersome nature of the verification of Sureties commences that sometimes takes weeks. The Registry of the Court will write to the Employers of the Civil Servant or the Land Registry and will await a reply that takes days and it goes on and on.

Some of the procedure are even unnecessary and unwieldy. The Defendant wallows in prison now called, ( now called Correctional Centre ) and some have even died owing to the deplorable conditions there ; whose death would have been avoided if we have a system that works.

At the Edo State High Courts for example, a defendant who has been granted bail could go home same day,because the Registry activates the process of verification immediately go to the places of verification themselves and write a report there and then which is then attached to the File, after which the Defendant is released after the post verification process. All these usually takes place in one day !

The cumbersome bail process of the Federal High Court throws up a constitutional dilemma.
Whether the excessive bail conditions mostly imposed by Judges of the Federal High Court and the cumbersome process of processing same that keeps the Defendant who is a Citizen of Nigeria in Prison (now called Correctional Centre) avoidably , is not a violation of the Right to Liberty, Right to freedom of movement and access to justice of Citizens of Nigeria as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of Nigeria,1999, (As Amended).

The Federal High Court is the major Court that interpretes Fundamental Human rights in Nigeria. Its modus operandi should be seen to protect Human Rights of Citizens of this Country .
Justice delayed is Justice denied, as Justice delayed is Justice turned upside down or simply put injustice.
We owe to generations yet unborn to make a change and change is a challenge to the adventurous and a threat to the obscure insecure.

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