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The criminal justice response to crime begins when a crime is reported to the police or when the police themselves discover that a crime has been committed.  The police in Nigeria more often than not, proceed to make arrests based on complainant’s statements before commencing their investigation.  In addition, the magistrates remand these suspects in prison pending conclusion of investigations and arraignment before appropriate courts, usually, the High Courts. However, the police at times lack the ability to carry out investigations efficiently and detention is often a kick starter of an extortion or torture custom. The rationale behind the detention before investigation is to help the police in the investigation; prevent the suspects from escaping trial and to prevent him from interfering with investigations or obstructing the cause of justice. The consequence is that investigations continue indefinitely while suspects fritter away in the police cells or prisons.

By virtue of section 35 of the 1999 Constitution[1], every person is entitled to his personal liberty. However, this right is curtailed by the imperatives of crime prevention; participation and perhaps punishment if found guilty.  This right is restricted inter alia,[2] for the purpose of bringing an accused person before a court in execution of the court order or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent that is reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence[3].

When an individual is taken into custody by the police or remanded in prison custody by the court, that person is legally presumed innocent by virtue of section 36 (5) of the Constitution because he or she has not been convicted of any criminal wrongdoing. We are confronted with the challenge of striking a balance between the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence, which by extension, views incarceration as a form of punishment[4], and the need to ensure that criminal offenders do not escape justice by being at large. Unduly long pre-conviction detention is costly, both for the individual and the state. While pre-trial detention can result in a prolonged absence from employment, loss of a job, and the inability to meet financial obligations the suspect behind bars is also less able to assist counsel in preparing his or her defence[5]. On the part of the state, the government pays for the person’s detention and in countries where social welfare is effective; tax payers may have to subsidize his or her family through welfare programmes.  On December 21, 2010, Justice Muftau Olokooba of Lagos High Court discharged and acquitted Major Hamzat Al-Mustapha, Mr. James Danbaba, Lt. Col Jubrin Bala Yakubu and Mr. Rabo on a case of conspiracy in the attempted murder of Chief Alex Ibru, publisher of Guardian after the accused persons have stayed 11 years in pre-trial detention. In dismissing the charges, Justice Olokoba described the evidence presented against them as “worthless” and chided the prosecution for failing to establish a prima facie case.[6] This lengthy detention is a common feature of the criminal justice process in Nigeria.

Despite the efforts aimed at reforming the criminal justice sector embarked upon by the Federal government[7], the condition of the prisons and detention centres have not significantly improved[8]. These efforts, have been episodic, and do not address the root causes of congestion, which are mainly institutional failures in the criminal justice system. For instance, in many states, persons arrested for crimes bearing the capital punishment are arraigned before courts that lack jurisdiction over such offences and remanded in prison custody for extended periods, ostensibly to conclude investigations.[9]

As the end of July 2010, the total population of prisoners in the country stood at 47, 628, out of which only 13, 300 or 23 per cent were convicted persons and 34, 328 or 77 per cent constituted awaiting trial inmates. Out of this number, 17, 164 have been on remand for between 5 and 17 years.[10] This by implication means that many have already served more time in prison than they would have served if they had actually been found guilty of the crime of which they are accused.

These prisons are clearly over crowded and the prison space and facilities are being over stretched to breaking limits going by the modest number of inmates they were constructed to take at inception. For instance, Ikoyi Prisons, which has a capacity for 800 persons, has a population of 1, 900 out of which only 24 prisoners are convicts. Port Hacourt Prison has capacity for 804 persons, but houses 2,924.[11]


A recent Amnesty International Report on the condition of detainees in Nigerian prisons stated as follows:

They are damaging to the physical and mental well-being of inmates and in many cases constitute clear threats to health. Conditions such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of food and medicines and denial of contact with families and friends fall short of UN standards for the treatment of prisoners. The worst conditions constitute ill-treatment. In many Nigerian prisons inmates sleep two to a bed or on the floor in filthy cells. Toilets are blocked and overflowing or simply nonexistent, and there is no running water. As a result, disease is widespread[12].


This situation has led serious congestion and deplorable condition and as a result there have been frequent jail breaks and riots in the prisons[13]. The Court of Appeal in Fasehun v. A-G Federation,[14] condemned the practice of keeping accused persons in squalor in the following terms:

The practice of keeping suspects in deplorable conditions while in custody pending their trial is a glaring misinterpretation of the Constitution. It is akin to running a Gestapo-a concentration camp. The applicants are entitled to decent accommodation and environment while in custody pending the hearing and determination of their case …[15]

Keeping unconvicted suspects in unsanitary and appalling conditions amounts to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which is prohibited by the Constitution[16] and international standards.[17]

Besides the problem of accommodation and prison congestion, there is also the problem of inadequate vehicles to serve the many prisons in each judicial division. For instance, Kuje Prisons in Abuja, which serves about 30 judicial divisions, has only three vehicles in its fleet.  As a result of this situation, many prisoners can not be conveyed to court thereby contributing to waste of time and delayed appearances of inmates in court[18].


This chapter discusses remand and bail regime in Nigeria. It assesses the practice of remand and goes on to discuss the various types of bail, namely: bail by the police, bail by the court pending the final determination of the matter, bail pending the determination of appeal and bail in capital offences. It examines the laws backing up the practices and the court decisions on the subject. The new innovations in the area of bail and the novel provisions in the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL), 2007 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill (ACJ) 2005 on bail and remand are highlighted and the chapter concludes by making some recommendations for a better bail and remand regime.



The term “Remand” is used to illustrate a situation where a suspect who is charged with an offence is ordered by a court of law, to be kept in prison custody, pending his bail, ultimate trial or release on the advice of the DPP[19]. The gruesome and unending delays in our criminal justice system are largely set in motion by the order of remand by a Magistrate or a High Court Judge. The statutory backing for the practice of remand is found in section 236 of the Criminal    

        Procedure Act[20] (CPA). The entire section is worth reproducing:

If during any proceedings before a court it becomes necessary to adjourn the hearing of the same, the court may from time to time adjourn such proceedings after or without hearing the evidence, if it thinks fit, to a certain time and place, to be then appointed in the hearing of the parties or the legal practitioners representing them and if the defendant is in custody the court may admit him to bail, as in this Act provided, or by its warrant remand him to prison or other suitable place of security for any time not normally exceeding eight days[21] but if necessary for such longer period as the court may consider advisable and if such remand shall not be for longer than three clear days the court may order the person in whose custody the person remanded is, or any other fit officer or person, to continue to keep the accused in his custody, and to bring him again before the court at the time appointed for continuance of the case.


This section basically provides for the remand or release on bail of an accused person. Such remand is not to exceed eight days unless it is necessary. Where the remand is for a period not exceeding three clear days, the court may order that the accused continues to stay in his present place of custody, i.e. police station.  Section 238 further provides that during remand, the court may order the accused to be brought before it. If the court is satisfied that an accused person who has been remanded is, by reason of illness or accident, unable to appear personally before the court at such adjournment, the court may in the absence of the accused person, order him to be further remanded for such time as may be deemed reasonable and cause him to be so informed in writing.


The major problem with these provisions is that the section 236 while providing for the possibility of remand for a longer period, did not define the phrase “if necessary”. Equally, section 238 did not define the phrase “as may be deemed reasonable”. These ambiguities in the law have given the judicial officers the leverage to detain accused persons indefinitely, mostly in prisons.[22]  The Supreme Court in Lufadeju v. Bayo Johnson[23] in deciding whether section 236 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) Cap 32 Volume 2 Laws of Lagos State, 1994, which is in pari materia with section 236 of the CPA is in direct conflict with Section 32 of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria[24] and other relevant constitutional provisions is in effect unconstitutional, held that section 236(3) of the CPL is not unconstitutional and that the lower court was in error when it held that it was.  The Court went further to state that if anything; the section clearly complements the provisions of section 32 of the 1979 Constitution and is designed to aid the administration of criminal justice in the country.


The Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Administration of Justice (PCRAJ) came up with the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, 2005 (ACJ Bill) meant to replace the present Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Act for the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria respectively. The Bill contains provisions to the effect that a Magistrate may have jurisdiction to take remand proceedings even though the person is arrested on allegation of having committed an offence, which if charged, he cannot be arraigned before that magistrate. In other words, the Bill conferred jurisdiction to hear remand proceedings on the magistrate, which is unrelated to the jurisdiction to try the substantive offence with which the person may be finally charged with before a court.[25]  The application for remand is to be made in a specified manner[26]. Section 272 of the Bill expressly provides that the court may grant bail in remand proceedings.


The Presidential Committee for the Reform of Criminal Justice Laws (PCRCJL)[27], identified long awaiting trial detention, associated with the application of the present remand system as the main problem of the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.[28] Various reasons may prompt a court to resort to remand an accused person. A person will be remanded in custody where he is denied bail by the court regardless of the reason for the denial of bail.[29] A court may for a variety of reasons refuse to grant the suspect bail, even though it has the jurisdiction to grant the bail. Suspects who have been granted bail sometimes are unable to meet their bail conditions. As a result, they are remanded in custody. A very common reason for remand is the situation where the court the accused person is presented lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the case. The police habitually take suspects who have committed serious offences to the magistrate courts, which have no jurisdiction to try such serious offences, on a holding charge to be remanded in prison custody, pending the out come of the legal advice by the DPP, or his ultimate prosecution at the High Court.


The Court of Appeal in Bolakale v. State[30], decried this practice and stated that it is an aberration and an abuse of judicial process for an accused person to be arraigned before a magistrate for an offence over which the Magistrate has no jurisdiction only for the accused person to be remanded in prison custody and not tried or properly charged and brought to a competent court for trial.  The request for remand is based on a charge sheet not supported by any other document to show grounds for the request. The consequence is that the defendant is committed to prison custody to await proper arraignment[31]. The arraignment of an accused person before a Magistrate Court for an offence over which it has no jurisdiction is tantamount to a holding charge which has been described by the courts on several occasions as unconstitutional and illegal.[32]


Time Protocol for Remand Orders

Beside the provisions in sections 236 and 238 of the CPA on the duration of remand which is not adequate, section 35 (4) of the Constitution[33] additionally contain a sort of time protocol for detention. The section provides that a person who is arrested or detained by the police should be brought to court within a reasonable time.[34] Where such an arrested person is not tried within a period of:

  1. Two months from the date of his arrest or detention, in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail: or
  2. Three months from the date of arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he should (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him), be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date.


Though the wordings of paragraph (b) subsection (4) have been challenged for throwing in an element of confusion as it contemplates the release of a suspect who was not arraigned before a court within the stipulated period of three months when the person is already in bail,[35] the objective of the section is to buttress the fact that suspects should not be kept in custody without trial beyond the stated periods. Mowoe also expressed the view that the effect of the provision is that where the accused person is not brought before a magistrate within a reasonable time, whatever reasons the police may have for his continued imprisonment, he must be released on bail unconditionally or conditionally, after two months or three months respectively, depending on whether or not he is entitled to bail[36].


The Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2007 (ACJL) contains a time frame for remand orders. Under section 268 (5) an order of remand made by a Magistrate shall not exceed a period of thirty (30) days in the first instance. After the expiration of the 30 days, the Magistrate shall order the release of the person remanded unless good cause is shown why there should be further remand order for a period not exceeding one month. At the expiration of the further order, the Magistrate is to issue a hearing notice to the Commissioner of Police and/ or Director of Public Prosecutions and adjourn the matter in order to inquire as to the position of the case and for the Commissioner of Police and /or the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why the person remanded should not be released. The Magistrate is to extend the remand order only if satisfied that there is good cause shown and that necessary steps have been taken to arraign the person before an appropriate Court or Tribunal[37].


The ACJ Bill 2005 also contains a time protocol for remand. An order of remand made under Section 273 of the Bill is to be for a period not exceeding 100 days in the first instance and the case is to be returnable within the said period of 100 days[38]. The court may extend the remand period for a period not exceeding 30 days upon hearing an application in writing showing good cause why there should be an extension of the remand period. The proceeding is to be made returnable within 30 days.[39] If after the expiration of this period of 30 days or the initial period of 100 days, the person is still in custody, the court may on application of the person, grant him bail in accordance with sections 149 to 190 of the Bill.[40] At the expiration of the 100 days or 30 days remand order, if the person is still remanded and his trial not yet commenced, or charge not yet filed at the relevant court having jurisdiction, the court is to issue a hearing notice to the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation and adjourn the matter for a period not exceeding 30 days to inquire about the position of the case, and for the Inspector General of Police and/or the Director of Public Prosecutions to show cause why the person remanded should not be unconditionally released.[41] Where good cause is shown, the court may, upon hearing a request for an extension of the remand, extend the remand for a final period not exceeding 30 days for the person to be arraigned for trial before the appropriate court or tribunal, and shall make the case returnable within the said period of 30 days from the date the hearing notice was issued.[42]  Where good cause is not shown for the continued detention of the person, pursuant to section 273(4) or the person is still in custody after the extended period of 30 days under section 273(5), the court shall with or without any application to that effect, forthwith discharge the person and the person shall be immediately be released from custody[43].


This is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, we are of the view that a period of 100 days remand is too long. One would be more comfortable with a situation where the initial period is 7 days, that is, 1 week, and a review period, of 5 days. The writer’s view is informed by the fact that arrests are not to be made before investigation into a crime is commenced. Arrests should be made only when at least there has been some investigation on the matter, with some evidence pointing to the accused person.



Mohammed J.C.A gave a very comprehensive definition of bail in Ojo v. F.R.N.[44] In his words:

“Bail is the freeing or setting at liberty one arrested or imprisoned, upon others becoming sureties by recognizance for his appearance at a day and place certainly assigned; he also entering into self recognizance. The accused/convict is delivered into the hands of sureties, and is accounted by law to be in their custody, though they may free themselves from further responsibility if they surrender him to the court before the date assigned”

Bail started in medieval England, when crime suspects were confined in squalid, disease infested prisons awaiting trial by travelling judges whose visits were few and far between. Local Sheriffs whose duty it was to ensure that prisoners did not escape, welcomed  the idea of friends, relatives or property owners who accepted the suspects into custody or “bailment” under the condition that they turn themselves over to authorities if the suspects failed to appear in court.[45]

The English Parliament passed the Habeas Corpus Act in 1679 outlining procedures by which prisoners became eligible for bail and prohibiting judges from demanding excessive amounts of money or property for pre-trial release. By this Act, no Englishman could be held without a chance to post some sort of surety bond unless accused of a heinous crime or some other justifiable circumstance.[46] Ten years later, the English Bill of Rights made bail a basic part of English law. People were guaranteed the right to be free from excessive and unreasonable bail that was designed to hold them in jail unfairly before an actual trial or sentence.[47]

The effect of granting bail at common law is not to set the defendant free, but to release him from the custody of the law and entrust him to the custody of his sureties, who are bound to produce him to appear at his trial at a specified time and place. The sureties may seize their principal at any time and may discharge themselves by handing him over to the custody of the law and he will be imprisoned, unless he obtains fresh bail. A surety who believes that the principal is likely to break the condition as to his appearance may have him arrested.[48]

Article 9 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, provides that it shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but that their release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial. Under Nigerian law, bail is a right of an accused person, which is not usually denied except where the offence is a capital offence and special circumstances genuinely exist.[49] The right to bail can be deciphered from the wordings of the constitutional provision in section 35 (4) and section 27 of the Police Act[50]. The issue of bail can arise at three stages in the criminal process, at the police, at the trial stage and at the appeal. In other words, three types of bail exist, namely:

  1.   Bail by the police.
  2. Bail by the court pending the final determination of the matter, and
  3. Bail pending the determination of appeal[51].

The common factor in granting bail at all the three stages is the availability of the accused person or convict to stand his trial. The basic constitutional provision on dealing with arrested persons requires that once a person is arrested by the police or by any other person and handed over to the police, on suspicion of having committed an offence, the police is obliged to take the person to court within 24 hours if there is a court of competent jurisdiction within 40 kilometres of the place where the alleged offence was committed or within 48 hours or such longer period as is considered reasonable where there is no court within 40 kilometres of the place of the alleged commission of the offence.[52]


The right to bail is connected to, and essential for the fulfilment of the right of every person accused of a criminal offence to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence[53].  The refusal to grant the accused person bail before trial materially affects the preparation of his defence as he cannot contribute to the location of witnesses or to the funding of exculpatory evidence.[54] Incarceration also affects the accused person’s right to counsel. Though the Constitution guarantees his right to counsel, it is a known fact that the Nigerian police detest and resist consultations between suspects and their counsel before and during interrogation.[55] A study by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies revealed that 39.1 percent of the lawyers interviewed encountered difficulties in seeing their clients in police custody. Most of them, 71.1 percent, eventually succeeded in establishing frequent contact[56]. Difficulties encountered included, uncooperative, obstructive or delaying tactics by the police, and over extensive bureaucracy and paper work[57]  62.5 percent of lawyers interviewed in a later study, admitted that they gratify the police or warders monetarily or otherwise before they are allowed to see their clients in detention. 70.7 percent of the lawyers asserted that the gratification was normally at the request of the officers.[58]  86.6 percent of the lawyers reported that police stayed within earshot when they were consulting with their clients in police custody.[59] This hinders the free flow of confidential communication between the lawyer and client.[60]

Bail by the Police

Section 17 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) requires that when any person is taken into custody for an offence other than an offence punishable with death, any officer in charge of a police station is to take such person before a magistrate or justice of the peace having jurisdiction with respect to the offence charged within twenty-four hours after he was so taken into custody. Where the person is not taken to court, he is to be released upon his entering into a recognizance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount to appear before a court at the time and place named in the recognizance unless the offence appears to such officer to be of a serious nature.

Section 17 of the CPA further mandates the police to take a person to court or release the person as soon as practicable whether or not investigation into the offence has been completed. Where such person is retained in custody he is to be brought before a court or justice of the peace having jurisdiction with respect to the offence or empowered to deal with such person as soon as practicable whether or not the police inquiries are completed.

Section 27 of the Police Act provides as follows:

When a person is arrested without a warrant, he shall be taken before a magistrate  who has jurisdiction with respect to the offence  with which he is charged or is empowered to deal with him under section 484 of the Criminal Procedure Act as soon as practicable after he is taken into custody:

     Provided that any police officer for the time being in charge of a police station may inquire into the case and—

(a)   except when the case appears to such officer to be of a serious nature, may release such person upon his entering into a recognizance, with or without sureties, for reasonable amount to appear before a magistrate at the day, time and place mentioned in the recognizance; or

(b)   if it appears to such officer that such inquiry cannot be completed forthwith, may release such person on his entering into a recognizance, with or without sureties for a reasonable amount, to appear at such police station and at such times as are named in the recognizance, unless he previously receives notice in writing from the superior police officer in charge of that police station that his attendance is not required, and any such bond may be enforced as if it were a recognizance conditional for the appearance of the said person before a magistrate.

Besides the Officer in Charge of a Police Station, the Police Act also empowers the Officer 2i/c of a police Station and the Charge Room Officer to grant police bail to persons arrested without warrant and to persons who are charged with minor offences, in the absence of the Station Officer or the Station Officer 2i/c respectively. [61] The summation of all these provisions is that whenever the police arrest or detain a person in connection with an allegation or a reasonable suspicion of a crime, and is actively pursuing investigation of the matter, their duty is to offer bail to the suspect. They are also enjoined to bring him to a court of law within 1 or 2 days as the case may be. Whether the police grant the accused person bail or not, it is their duty to bring any such person being investigated before a court[62].


When the crime is minor and the suspect is influential or has ties to the community, the police usually release the suspect on his or her own recognizance. This is a release secured by a suspect’s written promise to appear in court.[63] Whenever the police have performed their duty of offering bail to a person arrested or detained, the responsibility for getting a surety or satisfying the conditions prescribed for his bail immediately devolves on him. Even after the person had been granted bail by the court, the police according to procedure, may retain the person until the conditions for bail are fulfilled by that person.  Section 10 of the ACJL 2007 mandates the police to inform the Attorney-General of Lagos State of any arrests they make every week, within one week of the arrest. This provision is meant to serve as a check and a disincentive to lengthy police detentions.


It is to be noted that corruption plays a prominent role in most police bail process in Nigeria.[64] Research has revealed that there are cases where some suspects could not pay the huge amounts of money demanded by the police for their bail and were left in the cells awaiting payment of the money[65]. This situation goes on in virtually all the police station, especially if the suspect did not engage a lawyer to perfect his/her bail despite the notice on the walls of the stations, that bail is free. This situation invariably leads to congestion in the police cells and prisons.[66]


Bail Pending the Final Determination of the Matter

In bail pending trial, pursuant to provisions made by the enabling law or other statutes, which create the offence(s) charged, a trial court may admit to bail any person to be tried before it, while he is awaiting trial or during his trial.[67] The power of a court to admit an accused person to bail depends on the court before which the accused is being charged and the nature of the offence levelled against the accused.

The object of bail pending trial is to grant pre-trial freedom to an accused whose appearance in court can be compelled by a financial sanction in the form of money bail.[68] The freedom is temporary as it lasts only for the period of the trial. It stops on either the conviction or acquittal of the accused person.[69]

Both the High Courts and the Magistrate Courts are empowered to grant bail to any one charged with an offence punishable with imprisonment not above three years[70]. Where a person is charged with any felony other than a felony punishable with death, the court may, if it thinks fit, admit him to bail[71]. As for offences punishable with death,   Magistrate Courts both in the Northern and Southern states are not allowed to grant bail to persons charged with capital offences.[72]


The trial court has the discretion to admit an accused person to bail pending trial. Like all other discretions, it must be exercised judicially and judiciously. This implies that there must be sufficient and convincing reasons; the court having examined all the materials before it and considered the applicable laws[73]. The discretion must be based on facts and not in vacuo. In the exercise of that discretion, there are a lot of considerations factors to be considered. The following factors were declared by the Supreme Court in Bamaiyi v. State[74] as the most important ingredients which will guide a court in exercising its discretion to grant bail:

  1. The nature of the charge;
  2. The evidence by which it is supported;
  3. The sentence which by law may be passed in the event of a conviction;
  4. The probability that the accused will appear to take his trial.


The court in Uwazurike v. A-G of the Federation[75] was more comprehensive and enumerated the following factors as relevant considerations for grant or refusal of bail pending trial:

  1. The evidence available against the accused
  2. Availability of the accused to stand trial;
  3. The nature and gravity of the offence;
  4. The likelihood of the accused committing another offence while on bail;
  5. The likelihood of the accused interfering with the course of justice;
  6. The criminal antecedents of the accused person;
  7. The likelihood of further charge being brought against the accused;
  8. The probability of guilt;
  9. the detention for the protection of the accused;
  10. The necessity to procure medical or social report pending final disposal of the case.


The courts also consider the probability of delay in the trial of the case. The court must take judicial notice of the fact that criminal trials are not always immediate due to the process of investigation, issuing of legal advice, filling proofs of evidence and applying for consent to try a particular accused person in court[76].

These factors enumerated above are not exhaustive in guiding the trial court in its bail decision. It is also not necessary that all or many of these factors must apply in any given case.[77] While allowing the appeal and granting bail to the appellants in Uwazurike v. A-G of the Federation[78], the Court of Appeal noted that the trial court ought to have granted bail to the appellants as soon as it became clear that a proof of evidence did not accompany the charge against them.

By the provisions of the ACJ Bill, 2005, a person charged with an offence exceeding 3 years imprisonment shall upon application to the court be released on bail, except:

  1. Where there is reasonable ground to believe that the defendant if released on bail, will

commit an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding 3 years.

  1. Where he attempts to evade his trial.
  2. He attempts to influence, interfere with, or intimidate witnesses, or interfere in the investigation of

the case.

  1. He attempts to conceal or destroy evidence.
  2. Prejudices the proper investigation of the offence.
  3. Undermine or jeopardize the objectives or the purpose or function of the criminal justice

administration, including the bail system.[79]

These provisions of the ACJ Bill regarding conditions for grant of bail are clearer and more detailed than the provisions of the ACJL Lagos State, 2007, which did not set down these conditions.

Terms of Bail

The Constitution did not make explicit provision on the quantum of bail bond required for bail.  Section 120 of the CPA provides that the amount of bail to be taken in any case shall be in the discretion of the court by whom the order for the taking of such bail is made, shall be fixed with due regard to the circumstances of the case and shall not be excessive.[80]

An accused admitted to bail may be required to produce such surety or sureties as, in the opinion of the court admitting him to bail, will be sufficient to ensure his appearance as and when required and shall with him or them enter into a recognizance accordingly[81].

Courts are enjoined to approach the matter of bail liberally[82] and have interpreted the constitutional right to personal liberty as prohibitive of excessive bail terms.  Though the court in determining the bail terms will consider the seriousness of the offence as alleged by the prosecution[83], the courts should not be seen as denying the accused their rights because where the accused persons cannot meet the bail terms, the court has indirectly denied them bail. Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi on several occasions berated judges who lay down stiff bail terms for accused persons standing trial before them. He described such bail conditions as “extravagant and ridiculous” adding that such attitude was capable of rendering the constitutional right to bail “nugatory and impossible”[84].

The penchant of judges to impose very stringent and sometimes impossible bail conditions sky rocketed about six years ago and such stringent terms have been the practice since then. A few examples suffice to illustrate this point. Former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Tafa Balogun was granted bail on the condition that he produces as sureties, a former president, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, six grade one traditional rulers, one from each of the six geo-political zones, and retired federal permanent secretaries. The conditions were impossible and he never met them.[85]

Former Managing Director/Chief Executive officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc. Erastus Akingbola, who is facing trial on a 22-count charge of money laundering, theft, market manipulation, tax fraud, obtaining by false pretences, criminal granting of loans and facilities, insider abuse, insider trading and abuse of office was also granted bail with stringent conditions by a Federal High Court in Lagos. Justice Idris Mohammed granted Akingbola bail in the sum of N500 million with three sureties in like sum. The sureties who should be responsible Nigerians were to have landed property within the jurisdiction of the court and were to produce evidence of tax payment in the last eight years. The accused person was also to deposit his passport with EFCC and he was also expected to report to the Commission’s office every Monday of the week[86].

Possibly, these cases where the bail terms were made very stringent were motivated by the gravity of the charges. It is also known that as the likelihood of conviction increases, the risk of the accused person fleeing also increases, which in turn drives up the amount of bail and the terms the accused will have to meet.[87] Judges are also sensitive to public opinion and the media in making their bail decisions. Fearing negative public reaction in controversial cases, judges may set bail at an amount they know a suspect cannot meet.[88]

Bail Appeals

An accused person denied bail has the right to appeal for the grant of bail up to the Supreme Court. Section 123 Criminal Procedure Act is to the effect that a judge of the High Court may admit any person charged before a court in the State to bail, subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court, although the court before whom the charge is made has not thought it fit to do so. This provision was interpreted in Fasehun v. Commissioner of Police[89], where the Court of Appeal held that where an application for bail is made in the Magistrate’s Court, which is subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court, and the Magistrate’s Court refuses to admit the person to bail, the High Court, if it thinks fit, may admit the person to bail.


An application for bail after its refusal has to be by summons supported by an affidavit. This is so because the applicant was not arraigned before the judge and has no case pending before him, therefore, he has to come properly before the court. In addition, the applicant must exhibit a copy of the charge sheet and the record of proceedings to show that an application was made to a lower court and that it was refused.[90]


The Court of Appeal in Fasehun v. A-G Fedration[91] held that the Court of Appeal does not have original jurisdiction to entertain an application for bail but possesses an appellate jurisdiction from a refusal by the High Court.  Section 29 (1) of the Court of Appeal Act permits an applicant whose trial is still pending in the trial court to apply to the Court of Appeal for bail after the applicant had unsuccessfully sought bail at the trial court; provided the applicant has an appeal pending at the Court of Appeal, irrespective of the nature of the appeal.[92] Despite its decision in Fasehun,[93]the Court of Appeal in Orji v. F.R.N[94] interpreted the section 29 (1)[95] to mean that the Court of Appeal can entertain and grant an application for bail not withstanding that the applicant had not been convicted and sentenced by the trial court, provided the applicant has an appeal of whatever nature pending at the Court of Appeal.[96]

By virtue of Order 4 rule 13 (6) of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2002 and section 28 of the Court of Appeal Act,[97] where an applicant has been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the Court of Appeal may make order admitting an appellant to bail on his application or on the application of any person or without any application, if it thinks right to do so.

Bail Pending the Determination of Appeal

Bail after conviction is a serious matter and is granted not as a matter of course, but only upon showing special or exceptional circumstance.[98] In Southern Nigeria, the courts have no inherent powers in the CPA to grant bail pending appeal. The CPA contains no explicit provisions governing the grant of bail pending appeal. Rather, such provisions are found in other statutes. Section 58 (2) of the Magistrate Court Law,(Lagos) provides that where an appellant has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Magistrate Court, pending the determination of his appeal, the Magistrate may release him on bail. The High Court also has the power to admit appellants to bail pending the determination of his appeal[99]. The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court may, at their discretion or on application, admit to bail pending the determination of appeal[100].


In cases involving bail pending the determination of an appeal, bail is not granted to the applicant who has already been convicted and sentenced as a matter of course. The presumption of innocence no longer exists and the applicant must show special or exceptional circumstances to be entitled to bail pending appeal. A person who has not been found guilty of an offence is prima facie entitled to his liberty whereas once he is convicted by a competent court, he is prima facie deprived of the right to liberty.[101]

The Court of Appeal in Ojo v. FRN[102] stated the principles governing the grant of bail pending appeal against conviction to include inter alia:

  1. That the applicant has in fact lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal which is pending;
  2. That the applicant has complied with the conditions of appeal imposed, and this will show the seriousness of his application;
  3. If the applicant was granted bail during the trial, he has not attempted or tried to jump bail;
  4. That the admission of an appellant to bail pending the determination of his appeal is at the discretion of the court;
  5. That bail will not be granted pending an appeal save in exceptional circumstances or where the hearing of the appeal is likely to be unduly delayed
  6. That in dealing with the latter class of case, the court will have regard not only to the length of time that will elapse before the appeal can be heard, but also the length of the sentence to be appealed from, and that these two matters will be considered in relation to one another;
  7. In the absence of special circumstances, bail will not be allowed unless a refusal will have the result of a considerable proportion of the sentence being served before the appeal can be heard.

An application for bail under section 28 (1) of the Court of Appeal Act will be granted only in exceptional circumstances.[103] In Ojo v. FRN,[104] the applicants’ application for bail was anchored on the fact that since the applicants were sentenced to one year imprisonment, they would have completed their sentence before their appeal was heard, or served a considerable proportion of the sentence before the appeal was heard. The Court took judicial notice of this fact and also considered that a sentence of one year imprisonment is much less on the prison calendar and admitted the applicants to bail.

The case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. State,[105]  is a case that deals on bail pending appeal. The appellant was convicted for contempt of court and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. He appealed against his conviction and filed an application for bail pending the determination of his appeal. Part of the reasons for the bail application was that the applicant wished to represent himself in person at the hearing of the appeal. On this ground, Kalgo JCA, said:

In the instant application, the offence of contempt does not involve any document and there is no question of complication such as would require special attention of the applicant for him to be released on bail. The applicant can still argue his appeal personally without having to refer to any document used at the trial apart from the record of appeal. The release of an applicant on bail pending appeal purely on this ground as special circumstance may be justified only if the case has been one of some complexity and will take a long time before the appeal could be heard.           


The Court concluded that the plea of the applicant to defend himself in person was not an exceptional circumstance to warrant bail pending appeal.  The Court granted bail to applicant based on the other ground that the health of the applicant who is hypertensive would be jeopardized if he were not admitted to bail. The Court considered the decision in Chukwunyere v. State[106], which though a High Court decision and only of persuasive authority, had identical facts regarding the ill health of the applicant, which was considered an exceptional circumstance, warranting the grant of bail pending appeal.


Despite this reason given by the court for granting the appellant bail, it could still have done so based on the fact that the appellant wanted to represent himself in court, and there are no legal books in prison. This is in view of the case of Duro Ajayi v. The State[107] where the Court held that an exceptional circumstance in a case of bail pending appeal is where the bail would be of assistance for the preparation of a real case for the appeal.


In Bright Odili v. Commissioner of Police[108], the appellant/applicant was convicted for stealing and sentenced to a term of 12 months imprisonment with hard labour by a Chief Magistrate Court. He appealed to the High Court which dismissed his appeal and he further appealed to the Court of Appeal for bail, pending the hearing of the appeal. In support of his application, he filed an affidavit deposing inter alia, the fact that owing to the problems associated with the preparation of records of appeal in the High Court and transmission of same to the Court of Appeal, his appeal was not likely to be heard before the expiry of his 12 months sentence. The Court in unanimously granting the application, held that the principles guiding the court in respect of bail pending appeal are as follows:

  1. Bail after conviction can only be granted where special circumstances for so doing are disclosed.
  2. Bail after conviction would be granted where owing to the problems associated with the preparation of records of appeal in the court and transmission of same to the appeal court is not likely to be heard before the expiry of the terms of imprisonment imposed, or where appellant would have spent a substantial part of the sentence before the hearing.
  3. The fact that the applicant is a first offender who was granted bail in the Magistrate and High Courts and did not jump bail should be taken into consideration.

Where the accused person has been convicted, the application should be by way of motion supported by an affidavit.

Bail in capital Offences

An accused person standing trial for a capital offence like murder is not ordinarily entitled to bail for the simple reason that murder is regarded as the highest crime under the law, and attracts the most severe punishment.[109]  The grant of bail in murder cases is at the discretion of a High Court and no judge will grant bail as a matter of course since his unfettered discretion in the grant of bail will depend on a number of factors.[110] Section 341 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) also states that a person accused of an offence punishable with death shall not be released on bail. However, this provision is relaxed by section 341 (3) which gives the court discretion in the matter not withstanding section 341 (1).

Under section 341 (2) CPC, for bail to be granted an accused person charged with an offence of a serious nature, he or she must satisfy the following conditions:

  1. That the proper investigation of the offence would not be prejudiced;
  2. That no serious risk of the accused person escaping from justice would be occasioned and;
  3. That no ground exists for believing that the accused person, if released, would commit other or similar offence.

In the Southern states of Nigeria, an accused person charged with a capital offence may be granted bail by the High Court under section 118(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act.[111]  In Anaekwe v. Commissioner of Police[112] the Court of Appeal held that, although the Constitution generally provided for the right to bail, pre-trial freedom is restricted particularly in capital offences and that under the Criminal Procedure Law, a person charged with any offence punishable with death shall not be admitted to bail, except by a judge of the High Court. The Court also held that, although the law apparently confers such a right on a judge of the High Court, it is the general practice to refuse bail to a person charged with the offence of murder.

Section 35 (7) of the Constitution excludes the application of the provisions contained in section 35 (4) dealing on appearance at court within a reasonable time and release if not tried, when it  is a case involving a person detained upon reasonable suspicion of having committed a capital offence.

The High Court has the discretion to grant an application for bail to an applicant charged with an offence of murder. However, the discretion must be exercised judicially, judiciously and not invacuo or arbitrarily.[113] An appellate court will interfere with the exercise of judicial discretion by the trial court if it is shown that the discretion was wrongly or perversely exercised, or that the trial court took into consideration irrelevant materials or failed to consider relevant materials in arriving at its decision.[114]


The most important criterion in the exercise of the bail discretion is the availability of the accused to stand trial. This becomes more crucial where the offence attracts capital punishment. It is believed that the more serious the offence, the greater the incentive to jump bail. For instance, an accused person charged with a capital offence is more likely to flee from the jurisdiction of the court than one charged with a misdemeanor like affray[115].  The Court of Appeal in Ogueri v. The State,[116] held that an accused charged for murder may be granted bail where:

  1. The facts of deposition shows that at the time of the commission of the crime he is far away from the scene of the crime unless it is proven that he can be in more than one place at a time.
  2. It is shown that the accused is suffering from such a debilitating disease or infirmity that he needs very urgent medical attention without which he will be in danger of losing his life particularly where it is shown that confinement would generally aggravate his condition.
  3. Where there has been inordinate delay in bringing the accused to trial, a state of affair which will either result in the accused staying longer in prison than the conviction and sentence and make reasonable people conclude that there has been a violation of the accused’s constitutional rights by a subtle manipulation by use of courts sometimes incomprehensible procedures.[117]


The ACJ Bill 2005 makes specific provisions on bail where a person is charged with a capital offence. Such a person can only be admitted to bail by a High Court Judge under exceptional circumstances. Such circumstance may include:

  1. Ill health of the applicant.
  2. Extra ordinary delay in the investigation, arraignment and prosecution for a period

exceeding 3 years.

  1. Any other circumstances that the judge may in the particular facts of the case.


Importance of Proof of Evidence

From the authorities, the position of the law is that a bail applicant must place some form of material for consideration of the court in dealing with the application.[118] The onus placed on the applicant is not the ultimate one; it is not beyond reasonable doubt, but on a balance of probabilities[119]. It is when the applicant has done so that the onus will shift to the door step of the prosecution to show cause why bail should not be granted. It is the duty of every applicant to present the necessary materials before the court in support of his application to enable the court exercise its discretion. In Ojo v. F.R.N.,[120] the applicants discharged this onus by showing in their affidavit evidence that they were first offenders and that they had previously been of good behaviour when granted bail by the High Court.

Proof of evidence is very important in deciding on a bail application. It becomes even more crucial where the case is a murder case. It is from the proof of evidence that a court will be persuaded to grant or refuse bail by ascertaining whether there is prima facie evidence of the commission of the offence.

Where the accused person has been in detention for a long time without the prosecution filing proofs of information, the courts have normally granted the accused person bail because the prosecution has not placed anything before the court evidencing its intention to prosecute the accused.[121]  The court declared in Musa v. C.O.P[122] that a situation where there is no material before the court to show that an accused person is facing a charge of murder including proof of evidence, certainly qualifies as a special circumstance in which the court can grant bail. The Court of Appeal in that case, proceeded to grant the appellant bail.

The courts have severally said that where the prosecution merely parades the word “murder” without tying it with the offence, a court of law is bound to grant bail. The courts have in several instances condemned this attitude, which it terms “flagrant abuse of power by the police”[123]. The only way to convince the court not to grant bail is to proffer information and proof of evidence to show that there is a prima facie evidence of commission of the offence. The courts have consistently granted bail in murder cases where the prosecution failed to bring to the notice of the court, facts of the alleged murder. [124]


Recent Innovations on Bail

There have been some interventions aimed at addressing the problem of long incarceration as a result of inability to procure bail by suspects. Lagos State has blazed the trail in the reforms which is evident in some provisions of the ACJL 2007. The Legal Aid Council and Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) have also introduced the Police and Court Duty Solicitor Scheme respectively. These innovations and more are discussed below.

The Office of the Public Defender OPD

The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) was set up for the first time in Nigeria, in Lagos State, in July 2000, as a unit under the Directorate for Citizens’ Rights of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.[125] This was in response to one of the major problems of access to justice, especially in criminal matters where cases are stalled for want of representation for accused persons[126]. The Office was given legal backing by the Office of the Public Defender Law (OPD Law) 2003 which was reviewed in January 2008. The Office is an autonomous institution whose primary objective is to provide free legal services to the indigent, in line with the Lagos State Government’s policy on access to justice. It is funded mainly by the Lagos State Government and international donor agencies like the Ford Foundation and OSIWA[127] Bail at all levels is one of the key services the OPD provide for individuals especially the indigent.[128] The common practice at the OPD in applying for bail is to apply to the Magistrate to give bail on liberal terms depending on the nature of the offence[129]. There have not been major problems securing bail for OPD clients on liberal terms as their bail applications were obliged most of the times.[130]

The Police and Court Duty Solicitor Scheme

A Duty Solicitor on duty at the police station or the court is a lawyer who provides free legal help to a person who is charged with an offence and does not have a personal lawyer.  The major functions of a Duty Solicitor is to explain to the accused person the offence he or she is charged with and how serious it is; tell him or her about the usual range of sentences the courts give for the charge; tell him or her of any available defence; explain the effect of a plea of  guilty or not guilty; apply for bail for him or her; help him or her apply for legal aid if there is need to come back to court for trial or sentencing; if he or she is  pleading Guilty to a minor charge, tell the judge about his or her personal circumstances and point of view about the offence i.e. a “plea in mitigation”.[131]

The Duty Solicitor Scheme was first initiated in Nigeria in 1999 under the Nigeria law project funded by the European Commission and the Irish development agency Trócaire[132]. The three-year, E1.25m (£845,000) Nigeria Law Project was based around the concept of a Court Duty Solicitor Scheme. It was initiated via a partnership between the Law Society of England and Wales and the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), a Nigerian non-governmental organization. The specific purpose of the project is to establish a nationwide system for the state-based provision of free legal representation to enable indigent defendants, and victims of human rights violations, in particular women and other vulnerable people, to better defend their rights and obtain legal redress. Under the first phase of the project implemented between 2000 and 2003, a pilot Duty Solicitor Scheme (DSS) was established with the training and mobilization of more than 400 private practice lawyer in Magistrates and Area Courts in 10 states, to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants and victims of human rights violations who were unable to afford legal representation. The second phase took place in 2006-2009 and was implemented in 15 states of the federation, providing free legal representation to indigent prisoners and victims of human rights violations.  The scheme also entails building the capacity of pro-bono lawyers who work on the project. It embarks on Prisons visitations to remand prisons and prisoners on death row, while also offering free legal support and representation to poor awaiting trial prisoners and victims of human rights violations who cannot afford to hire Lawyers[133]. The project’s target was to train 750 lawyers in human rights skills and practice management, to form a pool of duty solicitors across the country providing pro bono services in court to indigenous defendants, with priority given to cases defending women and children[134].

Besides this Court Duty Solicitor Scheme, there is also the Police Duty Solicitor Scheme, which is a Legal Aid Council initiative. The Police Duty Solicitor Scheme is a project of the Legal Aid Council in collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Nigerian Police Force and lately the Macarthur Foundation.[135]  It has been implemented in the four pilot states of Imo, Sokoto, Ondo and Kaduna.  This invariably brought the services of the Council nearer to the underprivileged population of the Country in the defence of their rights.  The Police Duty Solicitor Scheme seeks to provide accused persons that cannot afford legal representation with legal assistance and advice at the first points of conflict and contact with the Law such as Police Stations, Magistrate and Area Courts. The Scheme makes great use of Legal Aid/NYSC Lawyers who hold regular sessions to protect the interest of detainees at that first point of contact with the law upon arrest so as to check any form of violation/abuse of their rights.  The result has been impressive in terms of number of persons diverted from the criminal justice system as a result of which many more States, including Delta, Edo, and Kebbi States, among others, are now exploring ways to establish similar schemes.




Deposit of money or other security  

Section 116 (2) of the ACJL Lagos State, 2007 provides that the court may require the deposit of a sum of money or other security as the court may specify from the defendant and or the surety before the bail is approved.[136] Any money so deposited is to be kept by the Chief Registrar of the court in an interest yielding account, and at the end of the trial, such money or other security shall be returned to the applicant and/or his surety at the conclusion of the trial or upon an application by the surety to the court to discharge his recognizance.


The reasoning behind this provision is that the introduction of cash deposits and other valuables such as title deeds, asset instruments, as other types of security than surety will help to strengthen the deterrence against absconding defendants on bail. This is a commendable innovation in our bail process. It offers a degree of certainty that the applicant will appear to stand his trial or risk forfeiting the money or other security to the state. This is only one side of the coin. From the perspective of the indigent suspect if this provision is applied, his bail prospect may not be realized.


Women Sureties

Section 118 of the ACJL Lagos State, 2007 addressed the long standing practice whereby the police discriminate against women in the matter of standing surety for bail applicants. This section laid to rest any doubts about that by providing in section 118 (3) that no person shall be denied or prevented or restricted from entering into any recognizance or standing surety or providing any security on the ground that the person is a woman.[137]

         Professional Bondsmen

The institution of the professional Bondsman originated from the United States of America[138]. The absence of close friends and neighbours during the early days in the vast expanse of sparsely settled frontier lands, made it difficult for the courts to find acceptable sureties.[139]

A bail bond agent, or bondsman, is any person or corporation that will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of an accused person in court. It is the system by which a person pays a percentage of the court specified bail amount to a professional bondsman who puts up the cash as a guarantee that the person will appear in court.

Bondsmen have a standing security agreement with local court officials, in which they agree to post an irrevocable “blanket” bond, which will pay the court if any defendant for whom the bond agent is responsible does not appear. The bondsman usually has an arrangement with an insurance company, bank or another credit provider to draw on such security, even during hours when the bank is not operating. This eliminates the need for the bondsman to deposit cash or property with the court every time a new defendant is bailed out[140]. Bondsmen are private business people and as such, they can choose who they accept as clients and who they reject.[141]

Section 138 of the ACJL Lagos State, 2007 makes provisions for professional Bondspersons in the criminal justice system. It provides for the registration and use of Bondspersons and gives the Chief Judge the powers to make regulations in developing the details of the best practices in use of Bondsmen[142]. The Bondspersons may undertake recognizance, act as surety, or guarantee the deposit of money as required by the bail condition of any person granted bail by the court within the jurisdiction in which the bondsperson is registered. [143] This is a major improvement in the bail system in Lagos State. Hopefully, when their practice becomes well established in the system, they will help some accused persons who otherwise would have continued in detention due to inability to meet bail conditions, to perfect their bails.

Recommendations and Conclusion

In summation, the following recommendations are proffered towards a better bail and remand regime in Nigeria.

  1. It is essential for government to implement past reports of Commissions and Committees on the Reform of the Criminal Justice Administration which recommend various measures to reduceprison population.
  2. The legislature should expedite action and ensure the passage of the ACJ Bill into law.
  3. Other states of the federation should emulate Lagos State in the area of modifying their Criminal Procedure Laws to meet acceptable standards and inculcate the necessary reforms.
  4. Prison infrastructure should be rehabilitated and new facilities built in order to keep prisoners in a relatively humane environment. To this end, it is imperative to increase funding of the prisons and monitor the implementation of the budget and expenditure to obviate corruption.
  5. The new Duty Solicitor Scheme is laudable but needs to be supported by government at all levels and all stake holders in the criminal justice sector in order to make it a permanent feature. It is important to increase the vigor and participation by all stakeholders to ensure sustainability of the Police and Court Duty Solicitor Schemes. Other NGO’s should take a clue from LEDAP and initiate such schemes so that it will be easily replicated in all states to obviate the danger of long term incarceration in police custody. Corporate organizations should make donations towards this worthy cause for it to be sustained as finance is a major hindrance to its continuity and effective implementation.
  6. Our judicial officers should desist from over reliance on imprisonment and embrace alternatives to imprisonment. They should also try to avoid making pre-trial detention orders as much as possible. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules)[144] propose the use of alternatives to pre-trial detention and also directs that pre-trial detention is to be used as a means of last resort in criminal proceedings, with due regard for the investigation of the alleged offence and the protection of society and the victim.  Where pre-trial detention is employed, it should not last longer than necessary and is to be administered humanely and with respect for the inherent dignity of human beings.[145]  Non-custodial sentencing dispositions mentioned by the Rules include: Verbal sanctions, such as Admonition, Reprimand and Warning; Conditional Discharge; Status Penalties; Economic Sanctions and monetary penalties, such as Fines and Day-fines; Confiscation or an Expropriation order; Restitution to the victim or a Compensation Order; Suspended or Deferred Sentence; Probation and Judicial Supervision; Community Service Order; Referral to an attendance centre; House Arrest and some combination of the measures listed above. Some of these alternatives to custodial sentencing should be adopted andimplemented to help decongest the prisons.
  7. It is not impossible for Nigeria as a nation that claims to fight corruption to seriously battle corruption in the police and prisons to a standstill. If corruption is eradicated in the police and prisons, the bail process will be free indeed and indigent offenders will no linger be denied bail simply because they could not pay bribe money for their police bail. Moreover, counsel and relatives will freely visit and communicate with suspects following formal regulations without having to gratify officers before they do so.



[1] See Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap. C 23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (hereinafter referred to as the Constitution)

[2] See sections Section 35 (a)-(f) ibid for situations under which the right to personal liberty may be deprived.

[3] Section 35 (c) ibid.

[4] See Barkan S. E. and Bryjack G. J., Fundamentals of Criminal Justice, (Boston: Pearson 2004), p. 296.

[5] Ibid., p. 296.

[6]Ibe S., and Fwangchi C., “Reforming Pre-trial Justice in Nigeria”. Available at: Accessed on 4/3/2011.

       [7] The Federal Government set up various Committees and Working Groups. Some of them include: The

National Working Group on Prison Reform and Decongestion, the Inter-Ministerial Summit on the State of

Remand Inmates in Nigeria’s Prisons, 2005, The Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Administration

of Justice (PCRAJ), 2005; The Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and Rehabilitation, 2006 and the

Committee to Harmonize the Reports of all the Presidential Committees work on Justice Sector Reform, 2007.

See Ani C. C., “Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems”, in Azinge E., and

Owasanoye B., (Eds.) Rule of Law and Good Governance, (Lagos: NIALS, 2009), p. 401

[8] The Prison Audit carried out by the National Human Rights Commission in 2008, disclosed that despite the prison decongestion programme embarked upon by the Federal Government, many prisons still have unjustifiable awaiting trial inmates (ATM) records. See the 2007-2008 National Prison Audit, (Abuja: National Human Rights Commission, 2008), pp. 42 and 208.


[9] See “State of Human Rights in Nigeria” CSO Coalition Report, submitted by Constitutional Rights Project, Access to Justice, Nigerian Bar Association, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights. Available at: Accessed on 28/2/2011.

[10] This was disclosed by the Controller General of Nigerian Prisons Service, Mr. Olusola Ogundipe. Available at: Accessed on 4/3/2011.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Available at: Accessed on 12/2/2011.

[13] Some of such riots and jail breaks include: the Ikoyi Prisons riot of 2005; the Auchi jail break of September 2005; the Agodi jail break of September 2007; the Enugu jail break of June 2009; the Bauchi jail break in October 2010 and the Jimeta Prison riot, January 2011.  Available at: Accessed on 7/3/2011.

[14] (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 975) 141.

[15] Per Adekeye J.C.A at  p. 154.

[16] Section 34 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

[17] Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December, 1966); Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Torture and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment (the Convention Against Torture adopted by the General Assembly on 9th December 1975); United Nations Principles on the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment of 1988, (General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988); Basic Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 (General Assembly Resolution 39/46 of December 1984)

and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004)

[18]  Available at:

[19] Ani C. C., “Towards Eradicating the Problem of Delay in Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria”, in F. A Yusuf (Ed.) Issues in Justice Administration in Nigeria, Essays in  Honour of Hon. Justice S.M.A. Belgore (VDG International Ltd. 2008), pp. 136- 153 at 137.

[20] Cap. C 41 Law of the Federation, 2004.

[21] Emphasis, mine.

[22] Section 239 of the CPA provides that all persons committed to prison under this Act shall be

committed to a Government prison or other place of safe custody.

[23] Suit No. SC. 247/2001. Judgment delivered on Friday, the 30th day of March 2007.

[24] Now section 35 of the 1999 Constitution on the right to personal liberty.

[25] See sections 270 and 271 of the ACJ Bill 2005.

[26] By filling out the “Report and Request for Remand Form” as contained in the Appendix to the Bill. See section 270 (2), ibid.

       [27] The Committee was inaugurated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on March 16, 2006.

[28] See the Report of the Presidential Commission on Reform of the Administration of Justice in Nigeria, October 2006, p. 135 (unpublished).

[29] A High Court may deny bail where the case involves a capital offence or for other reasons which are

examined in this article.

[30] (2006) 1 NWLR (Pt. 962) at 765

[31] Ani C. C., “Towards Eradicating the Problem of Delay in Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria”, supra  note 19, p. 138.

[32] See Adegbite v. Police (2006) 54 WRN at 187. See Onagoruwa v. State, (1993) 6 NWLR (pt. 299), p. 333. See also the dictum of Tobi JCA at P. 341 and the dictum of Galadima JCA in the case of Evangelist Bayo Johnson v. Lufadeju and Anor  (2002) 8 NWLR (pt. 768), p. 192 at pp. 217-218.

[33] See also Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 7 (1) (d) of the African Charter.

[34] The expression “a reasonable time” is defined to mean a period of one day in the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a radius of forty kilometers and in any other case, a period of two days or such longer period as in the circumstances may be considered by the court to be reasonable. See section 35 (5).

[35] Adeyemi, A. A. “Police and Human Rights in a Democratic Nigeria”,  in David, P. R. (Ed.), Politica Criminal,      Derechos Humanos Y Sistemas Juridicos En El Siglo xxi  (Buenos Aires, 2001) p. 29.

[36] Mowoe K. M., Constitutional Law in Nigeria (Lagos: Malthouse Press, 2008), p. 333.

[37] See Ani C. C. “Public Defence and the Advancement of Human Rights: Some Case Studies from Lagos Office of the Public Defender (OPD)” in Owasanoye B., and Atsenuwa A., (Eds.) Public Defence in a Developing Country: Looking Behind and Beyond, ( Lagos: OPD & NIALS, 2010), pp. 118-119.

[38]  Section 273 (1), ibid.

[39] Section 273 (2), ibid.

[40] Section 273 (3), ibid.

[41] Section 273 (4), ibid

[42] Section 273 (5), ibid

[43] Section 273 (6), ibid. See Ani C. C., “Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems”, in supra note 7, pp. 401-403.  

[44] (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 984) 103

[45] Barkan S. E. and Bryjack G. J., Fundamentals of Criminal Justice, supra note 4, pp. 295- 296

[46] See “History of Bail Bonds” Available at: Accessed on 6/3/2011.

[47] Ibid

[48] Halsbury Laws of England, vol. 11 4th ed. p. 112.

[49] See Muntaka-Coomassie J.C.A  in Bolakale v. State supra note 30, 507 at 515

[50] Cap. P 19 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

[51] Doherty O. Criminal Procedure in Nigeria, Law and Practice, (London: Blackstone Press Ltd., 1990), p. 125. See also Anka I. A., “Pre-Trial Procedures under Nigerian Law, in Osinbajo Y., (Ed.), Unification and Reform of Criminal Laws and Procedure Codes of Nigeria, (Lagos: FMOJ, 1990), P. 190.

[52] Section 35 (4) and (5) of the Constitution.

[53] Section 36 (6) (b) ibid, Article 14 (3) (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights makes the same provision.

[54] Anka A. I., “Pre-Trial Procedures under Nigerian Law”, supra note 51, p. 190

[55] Tobi, N. “The Admissibility of Confessions: The Dilemma of the Accused”, in Maidugri Law Journal

   1990, p. 9-22. See also Osipitan, T. “Safeguarding the Right to Counsel”, JHRLP (1993), Vol. 3, Nos. 1,2, and 3, p. 146.

[56] Ajomo A., and Okagbue I., Human Rights and the Administration of Criminal Justice (Lagos: Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 1991), p.   235.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ani C. C. “The Right to Fair Hearing and the Criminal Process in Nigeria: A Study of the Lagos Metropolis” being a thesis submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. d) in Public Law, University of Lagos, 2009, p. 276.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Principle 18 of the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All persons Under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment,  (General Assembly Resolution 43/173 of 9 December1988),provides that interviews between a detained person and counsel may be within sight, but not within hearing of a law enforcement official.

[61] Sections 332 (vii) and 333 (xviii) of the Police Act Cap. P. 19 Laws of the Federation, 2004.

[62] See Eda v. C.O.P.1981 (2) NCR 414

[63] See Bohm R. M., and Haley K. N., Introduction to Criminal Justice(New York:Mc Graw Hill, 4th ed, 2005), P. 295

[64] Okagbue I., Bail Reform in Nigeria, (Lagos: NIALS, 1996) p. 5

[65] See Ani C. C. “The Right to Fair Hearing and the Criminal Process in Nigeria: A Study of the Lagos Metropolis” supra note 59 p. 284. 21.0 percent of the suspects interviewed in the survey were those who claimed that bail had been granted, but they could not meet the bail conditions which were mainly in form of bribe money. This lends credence to the Institute’s research report where 29 percent of the suspects said they were refused bail because of inability to meet a demand for bribe. See Ajomo A & Okagbue I. Human Rights and Criminal Justice Administration  supra, note 56, p. 125,

[66] Ibid.

[67] I. T. Muhammad J.C.A.  in Ojo v. FRN supra note 44 at 115.

[68] Per Tobi J.S.C. in Suleiman v. C.O.P, Plateau State (2008) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1089) 298

[69] Ibid.

[70] Section 118 (3) CPA

[71] Section 118 (2) ibid

[72] Section 118 (1) CPA and section 341 CPC.

[73] Uwazurike v. A-G., Federation, supra note 75 p. 461

[74] (2001) 8 NWLR (Pt. 715) 270

[75] (2008) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1096) 444 at 449

[76] Ariyo v. C. O.P. (1989) 1 CLRN 289 and Olugbusi v. C.O.P. (1970) 2 All NLR 1

[77] Nwude v. FGN (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt. 902) 306,

[78] Supra note 75.

[79] Section 151, ACJ Bill 2005.

[80] Section 120, ibid

[81] Section 122 CPA

[82] Eyu v. State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 78) 602, Danbaba v. State (2000) 14 NWLR (Pt. 687) 396.

[83] Bolakale v. State, supra note 30 at 520.

[84] The former Chief Justice was speaking at the opening of the 2009 All Judges Conference in Abuja. Available at: Accessed on 3/3/2011.

[85] Available at: Accessed on 4/3/2011.

[86] Available at:     Accessed on 4/3/2011.

[87] See Barkan S. E. and Bryjack G. J., Fundamentals of Criminal Justice supra note 4, p. 299.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Supra note 14 at pp. 155-160. See also the case of M.K.O. Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria, (1995) 7 NWLR (pt. 410) at p. 755.

[90] See Opere JCA, in Abiola v. Fed. Republic of Nigeria (1995) 1 NWLR (Pt. 370) 155 at 187.

[91] Supra note 14

[92] Orji v. F.R.N (2007) 13 NWLR(Pt. 1050) 55

[93] Supra note 28

[94] Ibid.

[95] Section 29 (1) provides: “The Court of Appeal may, if it thinks fit, on application of an appellant, admit the appellant to bail pending the determination of his appeal.”

[96] At p. 638

[97] Cap. C 36 Laws of the Federation, 2004.

[98] See Sanusi JCA in Bamaiyi v. State supra note 74 at 449.

[99] See Section 5 (1) of the High Court Law of Lagos State, Cap. H3 Laws of Lagos State, 2003.

[100] See Order 4 rule 14 (b) Court of Appeal Rules 1981 and Order 9 rule 6, Supreme Court Rules, 1985,

[101] See Onu JSC in Enwere v. C. O. P. (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt. 299) 333 at 342.

[102] Supra note 44 pp. 116-117

[103] Fasehun v. A-G Federation supra note 14

[104]Supra note 45.

[105] (1990) 1 NWLR, (pt 12), p. 486.

[106] (1975) E.C.S.L.R. 44

[107] F.C.A.R 1. See also Madike v. State (1992) 8 NWLR (Pt.257) 85

[108] (1989) 1 CLRN 88

[109] See Galadima J.C.A. in Omodara v. State (2004) 1 NWLR (Pt. 853) 80

[110] Ariyo v. C. O.P (1989) 1 CLRN 289.

[111] Section 115(1) ACJL Lagos State, 2007 contains a similar provision.

[112] (1996), 3 NWLR (pt. 436) at p. 320.

[113] See Ukatu v. C.O.P (2001) NWLR (Pt.710) p. 765, Ani v. State, (2002) 11NWLR (Pt. 747) p. 212

[114] Omodara v. State supra note 110 and Ebute v. State (1994) 8 NWLR (Pt. 360) 66.

[115] See the dictum of Niki Tobi JSC in Asari v. Federal Republic of Nigeria, (2007) FWLR (Pt. 375) 558

[116] (2000) 5 WRN 27.

[117] Per  Pats-Acholonu J.C.A. at 32

[118] See Eyu v. State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 78) p. 602 at 610, Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (1995)

1NWLR (Pt. 370) p. 155, Ani v State (2002) 11NWLR (Pt. 747) p. 212.

[119] See Alaya v. State (2007) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1061) 483.

[120] Supra note 44

[121] See Enwere v.  C.O.P. (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt. 299) 333

[122] (2004) 9 NWLR (Pt. 879) 483 at 498.

[123] Suleiman & Anor. v. C.O.P. SC.19/2005. Judgment delivered on 17th March, 2008,     LL/TLR/BL/2008/Vol.1, No. 1

[124] See Enwere v. C.O.P. (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt.229) 333; Dogo v. C. O. P. (1980) 1 NCLR 14 at 17; Chinemelu v. C. O. P., (1995) 4 NWLR (Pt. 390) 467; Anaekwe v. C. O. P. (1996) 3 NWLR (Pt. 436) 320.

[125] Available at Last  accessed  on 6/3/2011.

[126] See Ani C. C., “Access to Justice in Nigerian Criminal and Civil Justice Systems”, supra note 7, p. 397.

[127] See Ani C. C. “Public Defence and the Advancement of Human Rights: Some Case Studies from Lagos Office of the Public Defender (OPD)” supra note 37, pp. 111-113.

[128] Ibid. p. 117

[129] Akanle O., “Case Analysis of Office of the Public Defender Clients: 2000-2010”, in Owasanoye B., and Atsenuwa A., (Eds.) Public Defence in a Developing Country: Looking Behind and Beyond, supra note 37, p. 101

[130] Ibid.

[131] Available at: Accessed on 6/3/2011.

[132] Available at: The Nigerian Law Project is generally aimed at strengthening the rule of law and access to justice in Nigeria.


[134] Available at:

[135] Legal Aid Council 2006 Annual Report. Available at: on 5/3/2011.

[136] Section 154 (2) of the ACJ Bill makes similar provision, but adds that the amount of bail shall not be


[137] Section 156 (3) ibid, also makes same provisions.

[138] The practice of Bail bondsman  was established by Tom and Peter P. McDonough in San Francisco in 1898.

[139] Thomas, Bail Reform in America (Berkeley, 1976), p. 212, cited in Okagbue I., Bail Reform in Nigeria,          supra note 64, p. 117.

[140]Available at: Accesses on 6/3/2011.

[141] Barkan S. E. and Bryjack G. J., Fundamentals of Criminal Justice, supra note 4 p. 300.

[142] Section 175 of the ACJ Bill 2005 makes similar provision.

[143] Section 138(5) of ACJL Lagos State, 2007

[144] Adopted by General Assembly resolution 45/110 of 14 December 1990.

[145] Rule 6.

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