Difference between revisions of "Nigeria"

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Latest revision as of 10:44, 5 October 2017

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Often referred to the giant of Africa, Nigeria gained independence on October 1st 1960 from Britain. At independence Nigeria had a parliamentary system of Government with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Bello as the Prime Minister. In 1967, a group of young military officers led by Major Kaduna Nzeokwu overthrew the government of Tafawa Belewa. Following the death of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, General Aguiyi Ironsi took over the reins of power from the military coup plotters. General Ironsi was in turn killed by the Military led by General Yakubu Gowon who took over power as the military head of state. Following the accession to the presidency of Nigeria by General Gowon, the region of Biafra in southeastern Nigeria (oil-rich) declared its secession in 1967 under the leadership of Col Odumegwu Ojukwu. The announcement of succession by Col Ojukwu led to a civil war which ended 1970 with the defeat of the Biafran separatists. Reports have it that the civil war led to the death of over one million people including men, women and children.

At the end of the civil war General Gowon remained in power and despite several promises to return the country to democratic rule he failed to do, until he was overthrown in 1975 in another military coup, which brought General Murtala Ramat Mohammed to power. Despite his promise of a speedy return to democracy; he was killed and replaced by Olusegun Obasanjo. General Obasanjo handed power to a democratically government led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979, however another coup plot by the military led to the overthrow of Alhaji Shehi Shagari in 1983 and General Buhari became the new head of Nigeria, he was also removed in another military coup led by General Ibrahim Babaginda. General Bagangida who ruled Nigeria for eight years and promised to hand over to a democratic government. He however reneged on his promise when he annulled the democratic presidential election won by Alhaji M.K.O Abiola. Following pressure from the civil society for him to leave and hand over power to a democratic government, he eventually handed power to an interim management committee led by Chief Sonekan. Chief Shonekan’s interim management committee was removed by General Sanni Abacha who instituted a reign of terror and jailed many pro-democratic activists. He died in 1998, and Alhaji Abdulsalam Abubakar was named the Head of State by the Military. The deterioration of the economy, coupled with pressure from the civil society for return of the country to democratic rule finally forced General Abdulsalam Abubakar to hand over power to a democratic elected government with Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria in 1999. He was reelected in 2003. In 2007, Yar'Adua succeeded him and after his death, Goodluck Jonathan officially became president on May 6, 2010, and has continued in office till date after winning the 2011 presidential election.


General Overview of the Nigeria justice system

Nigeria broadly has five-layer judicial structure made up of the Supreme Courts of Nigeria at the apex, the Court of Appeal, the High Courts, Magistrate Courts (in the Southern States) and Area Courts (in the Northern states). The Supreme Court, a federal court, sits in one chamber in Abuja, the federal capital, and the Court of Appeal, also a federal court, has six chambers in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Jos, Port Harcourt, Ibandan and Benin City.

The High Courts are made up of state and federal courts, the later basically with jurisdiction over federal revenue related matters. Each state maintains its own High Court, as well as magistrates and customary courts for the south, and Area and Sharia courts for states in the North. The structure of the courts and the entire legal system in the country follow the English common law system but the application of slightly different court procedures in the Southern and Northern states was influenced by a number of historic factors.

The states also maintain Customary or Sharia Courts of Appeal, as case may be, and further appeal from these courts go to the Court of Appeal, as he highest in that series. Appeals lie from decisions of the Magistrate or Area Courts to the state High Courts and then to the Court of Appeal, also as the highest in that series. Appeals on first instance cases at the federal or state High Courts lie to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has first instance jurisdiction over matters between states, and there have been recent proposals to constitute the Court of Appeal as the first instance Constitutional Court. There were a number of Tribunals set up under military regimes to deal with specific matters for which they were established and these include drug law enforcement, robbery and fire arms, public assets recovery, civil disturbances, etc., and there were no appeals from decisions of those tribunals even though they handle capital offenses. Those courts however ceased to exist with the coming of democratic rule in Nigeria

Judicial personnel for all levels of court, except the Customary Courts and the Sharia Courts, are necessarily persons trained in law with varied requirements of post call experiences. The categorization of the magistracy (including the Area Courts) varies from one state to another, but the least levels in most states require less than one-year post call experiences. The customary courts judges, expert for its President, are lay judges, mainly drawn from the civil service, community associations and traditional rulers in the state, usually people vast in the customs and tradition of the area. The Sharia Court is presided by persons learned in Sharia and Moslem personal law with no requirement for common law legal training.

Until very recently the bulk of minor criminal cases in Nigeria were prosecuted at the Magistrates Courts in Southern Nigeria and Area Courts in Northern Nigeria. However with the establishment of Sharia Courts in Northern Nigeria, the jurisdiction of Sharia courts was extended to cover criminal cases like adultery, stealing, robbery, murder e.t.c of the states. Sharia Courts were also empowered to administer punishments like amputation, flogging, and even stoning to death of convicts. In a study conducted by Human Assistance Initiative in 2010 / 2011 on the administration of justice in Nigeria, it was observed that about 60 percent of criminal trials in the country take place at the lower courts. The figure may now be higher because Customary and Sharia Courts are daily being established and given jurisdictions over matters arising from the Bye Laws of the local governments in the country and there is an average of one Customary or Sharia court in every local government, and most of these Bye Laws contain provisions for penal sanctions. There are 859 local government areas. The criminal jurisdictions of Magistrate and Area Courts extend to all offences except capital and high felonies, which are tried by the High Courts

Now, every criminal suspect is charged and arraigned by the police before a Magistrate or Area Court, (or the Customary or Sharia Court). The Magistrate or Area Court judge is expected to try the defendant of the offence charged if it is within the court’s jurisdiction, otherwise, the magistrate or judge will have to transfer the case to the High Court or the Tribunal. In most cases where the lower court has no jurisdiction over the case and had to transfer it, the defendant is reminded in prison custody while the administrative procedure for affecting the transfer by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutes at the High Courts and Tribunal, went on. Most time, bail is refused because the court will say it has no jurisdiction to try the case and therefore no jurisdiction to grant bail on the charge. In some cases, the court grants bail or fixing bail conditions. The effect is that the defendant remains on remand for as long as the High court or Tribunal trials lasted. If the defendant does not have a lawyer to insist on early trial, the trial may not start in many years. Many of these prisoners stay between 10 and 15 years in detention awaiting trial.

The bail practice leaves a lot of discretion to the judge, clearly, the bail practices of lower courts in Nigeria impact on the regime of administration of criminal justice and rights to liberty and fair hearing of criminal defendants. There had been cases where applications for bail were refused in misdemeanor charges, and instances showing apparent lack of understanding of the presiding lower court judges of the underlying principles of rights to liberty, fair hearing and bail within the context of administration of criminal justice.

Because of poor working conditions and poor remuneration, experienced and well-qualified legal professionals are rarely attracted to the bench, particularly the lower bench. There is little, if any, continuing judicial training for these judges.

Upon judicial appointment, every judge including judges of the lower courts, undergo induction course for few weeks, and thereafter, little or no continuing training takes place. The absence of proper training or continuing legal training of the lower court judges have no doubt continued to impact negatively on the regime of administration of criminal justice in the country.


In Nigeria, there are many laws which seek to protect the rights of persons in conflict with the law. These laws include the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, applicable all through Nigeria as a ground norm and from which the other laws derive their validities, the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), applicable for criminal offences in Southern Nigeria, the Penal Code applicable for criminal offences in Northern Nigeria, as well the Administration of Criminal Justice laws of the different Federating States of Nigeria. Most of these laws provide for the rights of the accused or defendant in conflict with the law. For instance the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 particularly its fundamental human rights provisions Chapter 4 thereof, states in clear terms that every Nigeria is entitled to the right to personal liberty and that no one should be deprived of such right except on reasonable suspicion of commission of criminal offence or by an order of court to answer to such criminal charges against him or her. The constitution also makes provision for trial of an accused person arrested on suspicion of commission of a criminal offence within a reasonable time and in a competent court constituted in such a way as to ensure its independence and impartiality

Following the constitution, the CPC, Penal Code and CPA also has laid down procedure for the arrest and arraignment of criminal suspects within the various jurisdictions. For example Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act; Any person who is arrested, whether with or without a warrant, shall be taken with all reasonable dispatch to a police station, or other place for the reception of arrested persons, and shall without delay be informed of the charge against him. Any such person while in custody shall be given reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice, taking steps to furnish bail, and otherwise making arrangements for his defense or release.


Protection from police

Police statute:

The Nigeria Police Force is a body established by the Constitution of Nigeria under Section 214(1) thereof. That section provides as follows there shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The section also state that there shall be only one Nigeria Police Force which authority shall extent to the whole of the Federation and shall be responsible for the protection of people's lives, their properties, as well as prevent and detect crime and apprehend criminal offenders as well. The Constitution also empowers the Nigeria Police Force to arrest any person on reasonable suspicion of commission of a criminal offences using reasonable force if necessary and informing the person of the reasons for his arrest. However this is rarely the case in practice, because the Nigeria Police arrest persons indiscriminately and beat those who resist unlawful arrest.

Judicial remedy against police violence

Corruption in the Nigeria Police Force is deeply rooted. Policemen who are supposed to be custodians of the law in very many cases engage in illegal and criminal acts. It is not uncommon in Nigeria to see Policemen arrest innocent persons indiscriminately with a view to extorting money from them. There have been several cases of innocent persons arrested by the police and framed up with frivolous charges where they fail to pay bribe. There have also been cases of torture and extra judicial execution of criminal suspects by the Nigeria Police force. While there exists disciplinary procedure for the discipline of erring police officers in Nigeria, and while there are laws like the Penal Code which provides for punishment of two years imprisonment for public officers who are found guilty of abuse of their authority to commit an arbitrary act injurious to rights, in practice only very few of such officers are punished for such acts.

Stops and frisks

The Constitution of Nigeria 1999, the Criminal Procedure Act of Nigeria including the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of the different states in Nigeria many other laws have specific provisions relating to arrest of persons suspected to have committed criminal offences. These laws lay down proper procedure for arrest of a criminal suspect For instance the CPA and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, like many others state that a person accused or suspected of commission of a criminal offence may be arrested, by either a police officer or by a person authorized to do so, and that a person so arrested must be informed of the reasons for his arrest. In addition, a magistrate or a judge is authorized to arrest a criminal suspect who commits an offence in his or her presence. The CPA and administration of Criminal Justice Laws of Lagos State and many other states of the Federation authorize a citizen to arrest a person who commits a crime in his presence but in such situation the laws say the arrested person must be taken to the Police Station immediately. Regarding frisking of criminal suspects, the law provides that the officer who made the arrest may search the arrested person using force if necessary and must keep in safe custody any property objects he finds on the suspect[1] However, the person on bail, and when bail is furnished, can’t be searched unless there are reasonable doubts about the person, maybe if she’s in possession of stolen goods, or dangerous weapons or other objects that may be used as evidence against her in respect of the offense with which he is charged. It is also said that when the person arrested is a woman, only another woman will search her[2] Any peace officer or any police officer authorized by a warrant may enter in any place in which he has reasonable grounds to believe that there is a meeting of an unlawful organization or persons who are members of such society. It can also stop these people and search in the place all badges, symbols, weapons, papers, books and other property which he has reasons to believe that it belong to an illegal organization.When a suspect is arrested the law empowers the police to prefer a formal charge against the accused and to bring the accused before a court within a reasonable time. The Constitution provides for a maximum period of 48 hours upon arrest to bring a criminal defendant before a court of law. The CPA also says a person so arrested must not be handcuffed or bound except where the person is violent. Under the Nigeria Criminal Justice System, the Police are empowered to prosecute criminal cases at the Magistrate Courts, while the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the Attorney –General’ s office of each state prosecute very serious offences like murder, armed robbery, treason e.t.c, at the High Court


In Nigeria the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 specifically Chapter 4 of the constitution gives a person arrested and accused of committing a crime the right to remain silent. When such a person however volunteers a statement such statements are usually used against the person in evidence during trials in court to establish a person’s guilt

In the past under the Nigerian criminal justice system, criminal cases are rarely settled by parties that are the victim and offender, there was therefore limited opportunities for settlement/ mediation as between parties in criminal cases in Nigeria. However many of the States like Lagos State which recently enacted a new Administration of Criminal Justice Law in 2011 makes provisions for criminal defendants and victims of crimes to enter into negotiation and out of court settlement in minor criminal offences. Such mediation and settlement does not however extend to serious criminal offences like murder and armed robbery. When an accused is arrested and brought to court, he is put in the dock and the charges preferred against him are read to him in a language he understands. If such a person pleads guilty and it is confirmed by the Magistrate or Judge that the defendant understands the charges against him, the defendant is accordingly sentenced immediately. In some other case, the Judge or Magistrate may adjourn the case for sentencing of the accused

Where an accused person pleads insanity, the courts usually adjoin the case to enable medical examination/enquiry to be carried out on the mental capacity of the accused to stand trial. If the person is found to be mentally capable to stand trial, he or she is formally arraigned and asked to plead to the charges against him. If the person is found mentally incapable to stand trial the accused is usually sent to an asylum or psychiatric hospital for medical attention.

Right to silence and Right to counsel:

Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria called the Fundamental Human Rights Provisions of the constitution makes provision for fair trial of any person accused of commission of crimes Section 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes it clear that an accused person arrested on allegations of commission of crimes has the right to remain silent until consultation with his lawyer as well as the right to consult a counsel of his choice. However where reasonable time is given to a criminal defendant to engage the services of a lawyer for his defense and he is not able to do so, in very many cases, the court calls upon the defendant to defend him, this is usually the case in minor criminal offences.


Nigerian law provides that the judge in charge of the case must inform the accused before it answers to the charges that he will not be subjected to threats or special treatment which can bring the person accused to make a statement or admission of guilt. Moreover, the person has to be informed by the judge that everything she says thereafter will be considered as evidence in her trial[3]. More no legal provision prevents the prosecutor to use as evidence at trial, the statement or confession of the accused against her[4]

Search and Seizure:

Nigerian law provides the possibility for the magistrate to search all places in which there are reasons to believe that an offense has been committed, or evidence proving the commission of the offense or that these places would be used to commit an offense[5].

Also he may, by a warrant, authorize a member of the police or any other person to search the place and seize any object connected to the offense as well as to also to apprehend the occupier on the place if the magistrate considers that he is directly connected to the case. In case of women, she has to be searched only by another women[6]


If a person is arrested in connection with the commission of an offence, the case is investigated and if a primae facie case is made out against the person, the police, usually through a police Prosecutor, prosecute such cases by charging the suspect to the lower courts known as Magistrate courts. Usually it is the police who prosecute cases at the Magistrate courts. However where the allegations are of grievous nature such as murder, armed robbery, and more recently kidnapping and terrorism, the State Director of Prosecutions who works on behalf of the Attorney-General of the state prosecutes.

Pre-trial detention

In Nigeria, the law provides a procedure for arrest of a criminal suspect. The law empowers a police officer to arrest and in some case detain the suspect if he has reasonable grounds to do so. In Nigeria the constitution Chapter 4 thereof says a person arrested on allegation of commission of a criminal person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. To that extent the law enjoins the police to release a criminal suspect on bail pending arraignment and trial in court especially in minor offences. Where the Police fail to release a person on bail, the person is immediately charged to court and the court on application by the suspects counsel grants the accused bail. There are however cases were a suspected is refused bail either because the crime the person is accused is a grievous one. For example in Nigeria, persons facing criminal charges relating to murder, treason or armed robbery are rarely grant bail. Most of them are by order of court remanded in prison custody to await trial, which often last for years.

It must be noted that the release of a person accused of crime on bail is not as a matter of course. Release of a suspect on bail is mainly based on suspect providing suitable Surtees as required by the court to take him or her on bail Also section 41 of the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provide that pre-trial detention can be justified by the public safety, morality, public health, or in order to protect the rights of individuals.

Freedom from prolonged pre-trial detention

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees speedy trial for a criminal suspect, which is supposed to obviate the need for prolonged pre-trial detention of criminal suspects. The Constitution provides a guideline that a person who has committed a grievous criminal offence shall after three months of detention be released unconditionally or upon such reasonable conditions as may be necessary to secure his attendance at his trial. However in reality this Constitutional provision is not adhered to. It is not uncommon to see criminal suspects remain in prolonged pre-trial detention for upward of 15 years without trial. In fact, the Criminal Procedure Code in force in the Northern States of Nigeria provides that persons who may be released on bail only at the discretion of the police, the person on bail must convince the police officer that bail is not a risk to the case[7].

However, the Nigerian Constitution and other legal sources provide guidelines on the exercise of the discretionary power of police officers, they have to assume their responsibilities in a reasonable manner, taking into account the individual rights and freedoms. In practical this discretionary power has become a weapon in the hands of police officers against people suspected. However, under the law, the police can’t keep a suspect in detention for more than 24 hours[8].

Freedom from punishment

In Nigeria, the problem of detention of people for a period longer than prescribed by law is very common. While Nigeria is a state party to the African Charter on Human Rights[9], which guarantees the right to life for every citizen as well as freedom from torture and arbitrary deprivation of one’s life and while the African Charter ratified by Nigeria in 1983 has been incorporated into the laws of Nigeria having the same force as the domestic laws and while the Constitution of the Federal Republic also guarantees the dignity of every human being, which in essence forbids the subjection of a citizen to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment[10] In practice, however, the police and the military have continued to torture and subject suspects and prisoners to untold dehumanizing practices.


Double jeopardy

The legal system in Nigeria comes from the tradition of the common law because of colonization; English law has an important influence on Nigerian law. The sources of Nigerian law include the Constitution, law, English law, custom, Islamic law and precedents.

In Nigeria, the Constitution of Nigeria and the Criminal law say that no person who has been tried and convicted or acquitted of a criminal offence should be made to undergo a second trial based on the same offence. The principle against a new trial, or the principle against “double jeopardy” is a principle derived from the common law. This principle prohibits a retrial for the same offense if it has already been heard in a first trial in a criminal court having jurisdiction and the case tried on the merit. A suspect who is put on trial for a crime which he had been tried before can raise a plea of ‘autrefois acquit” which means I have been acquitted of this offence before or “autrefois convict” which means I have been convicted of this offence before. These pleas under Nigerian law can act as a bar to further trial of the suspect.

Presumption of innocence

The Nigerian Constitution provides that every person is presumed innocent until her guilt has been proven[11]

Standards of proof and standards for conviction

The standard of proof in criminal case is beyond reasonable doubt. The onus of proving the commission of a crime rests on the Public Prosecutor; in fact the prosecution is required to examine the alibi of the accused before the trial. If the prosecution proves the commission of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then a conviction may be secured against a suspect.

Right to confront witnesses

The Nigeria law establishes that any person accused of a crime must be informed in a language that she understands of the nature and details of the accusation against her. Also such accused must have time to prepare her defense, either by herself or by being represented by a legal professional of her choice. The law also allows the suspect to take time to study the various witnesses called by the prosecutor before the trial. She also has the right to the assistance of an interpreter if she doesn’t understand the language used at the trial.

Right to counsel

Remember also that Section 36 (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that a person arrested on allegation of commission of a criminal offence has the right to seek legal counsel from a lawyer and also the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of her choice.

Right to a fair trial and right to trial by an impartial jury

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that every person has the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time by a court established by law; and constituted in such a manner as to ensure its independence and impartiality[12] Court proceedings and court decisions are made in public, thereby ensuring a degree of transparency and impartiality[13] However, there are cases heard in secret and decisions given in circumstances where the interests of justice and / or public interest dictate.


Capital punishment

The death penalty is constitutional in force in Nigeria[14] : Even though the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the right to life for every Nigerian; however, the right to life can be deprived when there is an execution of a judgment of a court of justice in respect of a criminal offence for which a person has been found guilty. Currently in Nigeria, five crimes are punishable by death: murder, armed robbery, treasonable felony/ betrayal, cheating, lead and preside an illegal trial. More recently some states in Nigeria has added kidnapping to those offences punishable with death. Moreover, the introduction of Sharia law in the penal system of states in northern Nigeria has expanded the crimes punishable by the death penalty for sexual crimes.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Peter Nemi v. State has upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty. However, the Nigerian state is subject to international pressure and campaigns to abolish the death penalty, which paved the way for a national debate on the issue of the death penalty.

Freedom from cruel or unusual punishment and freedom for torture

The Constitution of the Federal Republic ensures the respect of the dignity of every human being and including the interdiction on subjecting any person to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment[15]

Also recall the provisions of the Convention against torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which Nigeria is a state party and which recognizes the right to human dignity of every human being and guarantees the protection of all persons against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment[16]

Rights in prison

The Constitution guarantees to persons arrested to be brought before a court within a reasonable time, but in practice this is almost impossible, it depends on which distances the courts are and other local circumstances. So there is a weakness in the Nigerian system, which it ensures that such deadlines set by the constitution are not respected. In very many cases, criminal defendants do not attend courts due to break down of the prison vehicles and even when they do in most cases, their cases do not go on due to absence of witnesses or the Judge or Magistrate. In such situation, the cases are adjourned and the suspect taken back to prison. This situation has continued to contribute to prison congestion and very poor prison conditions.

Conditions of confinement

Most prisons in Nigeria were built before 1950; many of them are in need of renovation. They are not standards including at health level. Adds to the overcrowding, conditions "life" inhumane. Due to a lack of sanitation and access to water, diseases multiply and spread.

Right to a medical care in prison

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights[17] and the African Charter on Human Rights[18] to which Nigeria is a part of it, establishes a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being. However, due to poor conditions of hygiene in cells, it is easy for infections to spread to all prisoners and the prison authorities can’t guarantee the cleanliness inside cells, thus most Nigerian prisons can’t provide to prisoners the right to adequate conditions of detention for their health and well being even if they have substantial medical facilities.

In addition, the Nigerian legal system provides that when an inmate is suffering from severe mental illness, it should be transferred to a specialized hospital[19] , when there are also doubts about the mental health of a prisoner, he has to be examined by qualified doctors and if necessary transferred to a psychiatric hospital. And if he is sentenced to death, the sentence shall be postponed until the condemned gets out of the hospital.


Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides for the protection of a person arrested on suspicion of commission of a criminal offence. The constitution says that every person arrested or detained on suspicion of commission of a criminal offence shall not be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment. However these provisions of the law are not respected in practice. It is not uncommon in Nigeria for the Police to arrest even innocent persons, subject them to different types of humiliating and degrading treatment before obtaining confessional statements under duress from them.

It is also instructive to note that while the constitution makes provision for a person accused of crimes to have access to his lawyers and not to make any statement to the police until he or she sees his or her lawyer, in practice, this is not the case, the police arrest criminal suspects, beat them and compel them to make incriminating statements against themselves even before allowing them access to their lawyers. In fact in very many cases, accused persons are not even allowed access to their lawyers before being charged to court on frivolous charges.

The right of access to a counsel of one’s choice, to a fair trial and appeal against an unfavorable decision in a criminal trial are all rights constitutionally guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the African Charter on Human Rights which Nigeria is a signatory to and by virtue of its incorporation into the domestic laws of Nigeria. However in practice, because of poverty and illiteracy, most prisoners and other persons in conflict with the law are not aware of such rights and even when they are aware, they have limited resources to engage lawyers to pursue their cases. Many therefore remain in prisons when they are not supposed to be there.

With respect to the right to life, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for the right to life in Chapter 4 thereof. It says no one should be intentionally deprived of his life and that everyone is entitled to the right to life. However the constitution says the right to life can be derogated from in carrying out the sentence of death, passed on a person by a court after having been tried and found guilty of an offence punishable with death. In Nigeria offences such as murder and armed robbery carry capital punishment of death and so those found guilty of such offences are usually sentenced to death by hanging in Nigeria

Women’s rights in prison

Women in Nigeria suffer severe violations of their rights in very many circumstances. With respect to women prisoners while the law provides for proper and adequate living conditions for them, in reality many of them suffer from a lot of deprivations. Many sleep on bare floor in the prison, most women in prison also have no access to sanitary towels for use during their menstrual circle, and many are therefore compelled to use old and dirty rags as sanitary towels. Like their male counterparts many of them are also not properly fed and many end up with different kinds of diseases and with limited access to medical care in the prisons, it is not uncommon to see female prisoners whose families are not able to provide medical treatment outside the limited ones in the prison left to die slowly in prison.

Also instructive is the point that even pregnant female prisoners or nursing mothers are admitted to the prisons with their pregnancies and with their babies, which often leave serious psychological effect on the babies and their mothers as well.


The right of appeal is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999[20] The Constitution provides for appeal from the High Courts and Federal High Courts of the different States to the Courts of Appeals, which have different divisions in Nigeria. Appeals from the Courts of Appeal go to the Supreme Court which is the Highest Court of Appeal in Nigeria. The Court of Appeal headed by a president is properly constituted with a minimum of three judges sitting as a panel, while the Supreme Court is properly constituted with a minimum of five justices sitting as a panel.

The Court of Appeal is constitutionally competent to hear appeals from the Federal High Courts, State High Courts, Sharia court of Appeal of the Federal capital territory of Abuja, court of appeals applying Sharia and customary court of appeal in a civil procedure[21]


The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary and permits the exercise of Sharia Law for consenting Muslims. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria list all courts established in the territory[22] These courts established by the Constitution are the only superior courts in Nigeria. The Constitution gives to the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly the power to establish inferior jurisdiction. The Supreme Court is the highest court and all these decisions are binding on other courts that must comply with them. It responds to all appeals made to the courts of appeal. In addition, the Constitution establishes a High Court for each State directly, and then each State has the option of establishing an Islamic court of appeal or a Customary Court of Appeal. The inferior courts are established in accordance with the constitutional provisions and include trial courts, district courts, regional / Sharia and customary courts. Trials in the regular court system are public and generally respect constitutionally protected individual rights, including a presumption of innocence, the right to be present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to be represented by legal counsel. However, low compensation for judges, understaffing, poor equipment, bribery, special settlements, and a host of developmental factors decrease the reliability and impartiality of the courts.


Pre-trial detainees/ remand Prisoners (percentage the prison population) : Nigeria: 69,6 % : rank 14. Occupancy Rates : 111,9 %

  1. Section 6(1): Criminal Procedure Act; Chapter 80:Laws of the federation or Nigeria, 1990
  2. Section 6(2) Criminal Procedure Act: Chapter 80: Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990
  3. Section 314 (3): Criminal Procedure Act: Chapter 80: Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990
  4. Section 317: Criminal Procedure Act: Chapter 80: Laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990
  5. Section 107(1):Criminal Procedure Act:Chapter 80:Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990
  6. Section 107 (2): Criminal procedure Act ; chapter 80 : laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990
  7. Section 340 (1), 341 (2) Criminal Procedure Code of the Northern States of Nigeria
  8. Section 17 Criminal Procedure Act: Chapter 80
  9. Adopted on June 17th 1981 by the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
  10. Section 34(1): Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria
  11. Section 36 (5): Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  12. Section 36 (4) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  13. Section 36 (3) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  14. Section 33 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  15. Section 34 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  16. Section 27 Convention against torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
  17. Section 25 (1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  18. Section 16 (1) African charter on Human and people’s rights
  19. Section 8 : Prison Act
  20. Section 237 to section 248 : Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria
  21. Section 240 : Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
  22. Section 6 (5) de la Constitution of the Fédéral Republic of Nigeria