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Your legal rights and responsibilities: Problems and solutions (2)

By PATRICK ANYADUBALU

(viii)  Right to freedom of assembly and association.
(ix)  Right to freedom of movement.
(x)   Right to freedom from discrimination as a result of sex, place of origin, religion or political opinion.
(xi)   Right to acquire and own immoveable property anywhere in Nigeria.

These rights that are mostly observed in breach are the rights relating to liberty and criminal trials of the citizens. See sections 35 – 36 of the constitution.

Few examples will suffice as follows:
1.          Section 35(2) of the constitution which provides that a person who is arrested and detained has a right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his choice.

Can we say in Nigeria especially at our local areas that law enforcement agents do strictly observe this section 35 (2) or do we have a hostile law enforcement agents towards a legal practitioner who has come to represent his client.

“ Lawyer, go and wait for us in court” has become a common response from law enforcement agents on the appearance of a legal practitioner in respect of his client.
2.       Section 35(4) that prohibits detention beyond 24hours or Two days as the case may be without being charged to court is also regularly breached.
It is common knowledge that citizens are detained beyond 24 hours or two days in the custody of security agencies without being charged to courts contrary to the provisions of the constitution.
It is regrettable to note that some of those who are charged to court are not based upon reasonable suspicion or establishment of a prima facie evidence of their commission of the offence but based on the insistence of the complainants who are often propelled by malice and not the quest for justice.

It is equally regrettable that some of our law enforcement agents fall to this anomaly because of the attendant material gratification.

This no doubt informed the avalanche of awaiting trial cases or abandoned cases at our criminal court that are eventually struck out because of lack of diligent prosecution.

It is contrary to the provisions of the fundamental rights to prosecute a person on matters that are not criminal but civil. Today, instead of some law enforcement agents advising a complainant to explore civil court, cases that are civil are clothed with unimaginable criminal elements, all in a bid to prosecute the suspect and restrain his liberty. In some cases, land and tenancy matter  end up in our criminal court as threat to life of the landlord, break and entry against the tenant, recovery of debt becomes obtaining under false pretences, land matter becomes threat to life etc,

The issue becomes interesting especially in Lagos State where it is almost impossible for a person who is charged with commission of a criminal offence, granted bail to regain his freedom that day. The reason is the requirement of verification of Tax clearance certificate of the sureties by the relevant Tax Authority of the State.
3.     In some cases brutality by law enforcement agents to extract admission from the suspect still hold sway. This is contrary to right to dignity of person.
4.     Presumption of innocence. See section 36(5) of the constitution. This is also generally violated as exemplified in Aluu killing of students without a preceding trial in court, the Ezumezu River discovery of dead bodies, the earlier killing of Gideon Akaluka whose blood still cry for justice as well as the Apo Six killing of Igbo traders in Abuja. There are many recorded and unrecorded extra judicial murders or violations of presumption of innocence.

CIVIL RIGHTS
There are rights guaranteed by the constitution or other allied laws, like the right to vote and be voted for. See, section 77 (2) of the 1999 constitution as Amended.

It is also controversial whether this right is indeed being observed. Good illustration will be the recent Anambra State gubernatorial election where some registered voters including one of the contestants were disenfranchised or where a contestant’s stronghold had the eligible voters disenfranchised.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.