Under the law, the following are the rights of suspects in Nigeria:
1. RIGHT TO LIFE
Every person, including a suspect, has the right to life and by law, no person shall be deprived of his right to life except under such circumstances as permitted by law. In other words, jungle justice or the act of mobs killing a suspect is unconstitutional. It is also unlawful for security operatives to torture suspects to death or deliberately shoots suspects to death. The suspects’ right to life is also supported by the presumption of Innocence. Every person suspected to have committed a crime is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. See On the right to life, see Section 33 of the 1999 constitution
2.RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE OFFENCE FOR WHICH A SUSPECT IS ARRESTED.
It is the right of anyone accused of having committed a crime to be informed of the crime alleged. A suspect must be informed at the time of the arrest, the reason for the arrest (offense alleged) or in writing and within twenty-four hours the reason for the arrest. However, one might argue that the right to be informed of the offense alleged is not necessary where the suspect was caught committing the crime. For avoidance of doubt, a suspect should be informed of the reason for the arrest.
3. RIGHT TO DIGNITY OF PERSON.
By law, no person should be subjected to torture or any form of degrading treatment against his or her person. The practice of beating suspects to confess or admit to the crime alleged is unconstitutional and further breach of suspects fundamental right to dignity of his person. Again, to strip a suspect naked is also a gross violation of his right to dignity. The right to dignity of human person equally extends to situations where a suspect is to be searched. Such search must be conducted by a person of the same sex and with the utmost decency except situations demand otherwise. See Section 34 of the 1999 constitution
4. RIGHT TO BAIL
A suspect is entitled to be released on bail; with or without conditions. Thus, where Police arrest and detain a suspect and investigation is on-going, the police is mandated by law to release the person on bail or to charge the person to the Court. Section 35(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and EDU v COP)
5. RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENCE
As noted by Mondaq, a suspect has the right to remain silent after arrest until after consultation with his lawyer or any person of his choice. It is unlawful to compel suspects to give evidence, answer any question or to sign any document against his wish. Doing such would amount to abuse of the suspect’s right. See Section 35(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
6. RIGHT TO BE CHARGED TO COURT WITHIN REASONABLE TIME
It is illegal to detain a suspect beyond the constitutional allowed time. By law, every person arrested on allegation of crime must be released on bail or charged to court within a reasonable time. Section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution defined reasonable time to mean 1 day where there is court within the radius of 40km or 2 days in other circumstances or such longer period as the court will deem reasonable. In other words, to detain a suspect for weeks without charging the suspect to Court is a gross violation of such suspect’s right aforesaid.
7. RIGHT NOT TO BE ARRESTED OVER ANOTHER PERSONS ‘ CRIME
Under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, it is unlawful to arrest someone over another person’s crime. Example, if someone’s son commits a crime, it is unlawful to arrest the father of the suspect. See Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Where this right is mindlessly violated, the person arrested can sue the authority involved for Enforcement of his Fundamental right to liberty.
WHERE THE PROBLEM IS
There is nothing wrong with our laws. The Nigerian constitution and other supporting laws are well articulated to proffer solution to a myriad of legal problems in Nigeria but the problem is in the hands of civilians and law enforcement agencies. Right are made to be enjoyed and not to be overlooked. Those who protect the law, must learn to respect the rights of suspects to a crime in Nigeria.