1. RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING
Everyone who goes to court wants to be heard right? To be heard is a natural right and it is further magnified by the constitution under Section 36 of the Nigerian constitution. In this section, parties before the court must be given equal opportunity to be heard in respect of their matters before the court. To deny anyone the right to be heard is to deny the person, fairness which is the substance and essence of the law. So, the judge or whoever it is that is in charge of a dispute must hear the parties involved in the dispute.
Fair hearing extends to not being a judge in your case. That is, where you are involved in a case, you cannot be a judge to preside over the same case. For Example, A and B fought and you are A’s father, you cannot be a judge in the case. When a judge has any interest in the case or he relates to the parties in the case or he is a friend of the parties, then he must stay away from the case, or justice may be trampled on the altar of emotion or personal interest.
Exceptions to the right of fair hearing
Where you have been given an opportunity to be heard and you chose to say nothing, you cannot complain of having been denied a fair hearing. See Section 36 (11) of the 1999 constitution as amended and the case of Igabele v State. In the same way, if you chose to stay away from your matter in court on the date it is fixed, you cannot complain of a lack of fair hearing.
2. RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION
The right to counsel is available to anyone charged with a crime in Nigeria. A person charged with an offense is entitled to defend himself in person or through legal practitioner of his choice. Where a person is charged with a capital offence like murder, the accused person must be represented by a lawyer. Where the accused person cannot afford to hire the services of a lawyer, the court is bound to provide one for him. See the case of Josiah v State.
3. RIGHT TO ADEQUATE TIME AND FACILITY
Any person charged with an offence in court is entitled to adequate time and facility to prepare for his defense. This is the main reason for the adjournment. An accused person is entitled to adjournment to enable him to secure the attendance of is lawyer or his witness. However, the right to adjournment must not be abused, less it crippled the smooth course of the trial. In the same vein, an accused person is entitled to all necessary evidence that the prosecution may rely in prosecuting the offense alleged and this is one of the 6 legal rights of an accused person.
4. RIGHT TO INTERPRETER
The official language of Courts in Nigeria is the English language. Where an accused person does not understand the language of the court, an interpreter must be provided for him or her. Usually, the interpreter is provided by the court and it is free. And it is the duty of the accused person’s lawyer to remind the court that his client does not understand the language of the court. The interpreter must be competent in both the language of the court and in the language of the accused person. See the case of Ajayi v Zaria Native Authority.
READMORE: ARRAIGNMENT OF ACCUSED PERSON
5. RIGHT TO EXAMINE WITNESS CALLED BY PROSECUTION
In court, usually, the prosecution calls witnesses to prove his case and at the end, the accused person or his lawyer will cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. This is of right as stipulated by Section 36(6)(d) of the 1999 constitution as amended. To deny the accused person right to cross-examine the witnesses of the prosecution is tantamount to a denial of fair hearing. See the case of Tulu v Bauchi Native authority.
6. RIGHT TO BE PRESUMED INNOCENT
By law, every person charged with an offence is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. The accused person is not expected to prove his innocence, because his innocence is already presumed. The burden is on the prosecution to prove the accused person is guilty and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. Where the prosecution fails to prove the whole ingredients of an offence, an accused person shall be discharged and this is also one of the 6 legal rights of an accused person. However, these rights are additions to other rights supported by law.