If you are a Nigerian living abroad or friends of Nigeria, this video from the #EndSARS London protest captures the ongoing nationwide protests against policy brutality across Nigeria. Sars stands for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
If you are in Nigeria here is What You Should Know if Arrested While Protesting
Chapter IV, Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives you the constitutional right to a freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This is a guaranteed right and means you may assemble and protest peacefully to #EndSARS.
You DO NOT, under the constitution, have a right to fight, steal, hit others or engage in any criminal activity or conduct just because you are protesting. Such actions means you can and will most likely be arrested, charged if you are lucky, and prosecuted. If you are unlucky, as many incarcerated defendants in Nigeria’s jails and prisons are, then you could be arrested and detained indefinitely i.e. locked up and the keys thrown away with absolutely no due process accorded to you, despite the due process mandate provided in Nigeria’s constitution.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), an organization that regulates lawyers and the practice of law in Nigeria, is available to provide free legal services to secure your release and dismissal of charges filed against you; should you be arrested while legitimately protesting to #EndSARS.
You should have the contacts of the appropriate NBA staff handy. For all contacts visit the NBA and check their website too.
What are your legal rights if you are arrested?
1. The State Federal High Court where you are arrested will hear your case. This means, for example, if you are arrested in Lagos, then expect Lagos courts to have the power to hear your case.
2. Nigeria’s Federal Criminal Procedure Act and the respective state criminal procedure laws will govern your court process.
3. Criminal procedure are the rules of the criminal justice system that help your criminal defense lawyer, prosecutors, judges and the police navigate the criminal courts. This is independent from Nigeria’s Federal Penal Code. The Penal Code sets forth the actual criminal violations you allegedly committed. For example, breach of the peace, unlawful assembly, battery, assault etc.
4.If you do not commit any criminal act, hopefully you will be charged with nothing. If you do, then you can be charged with felony and/or misdemeanor charges.
5. When a defendant is arrested, with or without a warrant, he or she has a right to know what they are charged with i.e. the basis for the arrest. Nigeria’s prosecutors can charge criminal defendants with felony and/or misdemeanors offenses. In Nigeria, a felony carries 3years or more prison term while a misdemeanor carries 6months (at a minimum) to 3years jail/prison term.
6. Nigeria’s Constitution requires when a police effectuates an arrest without a warrant AND the crime is a non-capital offense, they must release the defendant on bail; IF they cannot bring the defendant before a court within 24hours from the time they arrested and detained such defendant.
7. The police have the broad discretion per the Criminal Procedure Act to determine whether they will grant a criminal defendant bail. The judges/judiciary tend to be passive letting the police basically do whatever they want to do. This creates opportunities of abuse that has been ongoing for decades within the legal justice system, specifically detentions without trials.
Photo credit: PremiumTimes Newspaper Nigeria
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