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Welcome to Nigerian Law. This is site is dedicated to helping you find legal answers to your pressing urgent legal questions. We discovered that most Nigerians scarcely know their rights in Nigeria, hence, they fall victim to the manipulations of public authorities and fellow individuals. Our joy is to see you enjoy your life in Nigeria knowing all your rights at your finger tips. Please leave a comment to enable us serve you better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Right to personal liberty

Fundamental human rights
This is a continuation of our series on fundamental human rights. As we know the fundamental human rights of every citizen is enshrined in the constitution. The fundamental human rights of every citizen of Nigeria can be found in chapter three of the constitution, sections 33-44.
Every citizen of Nigeria has the following rights

1. Right to life( section 33)
2. Right to dignity of human person (sesction34)
3. Right to personal liberty (section 35)
4. Right to fair hearing (section 36)
5. Right to private and family life (section 37)
6. Right to freedom of thought , conscience and religion (section 38)
7. Right to freedom of expression and the press (section 39)
8. Right to peaceful assembly and association (section 40)
9. Right to freedom of movement (section 41)
10. Right to freedom from discrimination ( section 42)
11. Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria (section 43)
12. Compulsory acquisition of property ( section 44)
13. Restriction and derogation from fundamental human rights (section 45)
For today we would be examining section 35-right to personal liberty. This section of the constitution states in its first sub section that ever person shall be entitled to his personal liberty except in the following cases
· A. In execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty. This implies that your personal liberty is guaranteed except in the execution of a court sentence in respect of a crime which you committed and you must be found guilty first before your personal liberty can be deprived of you.
· B. By reason of failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon you by law. This implies that if you are ordered by a court of law in Nigeria to appear before him/her you have to do that to avoid your personal liberty to be deprived of you. Furthermore your personal liberty can be deprived of you when if you fail to fulfill an obligation that has been put on you by law, an example of this obligation is in times of war when you are required to come out and defend your country, if you refuse o do that you can be conscripted into the army by force and your personal liberty deprived of you.
· C. Another situation provided by the constitution where your personal liberty can be deprived of you is for the purposes of bringing you before a court in execution of the order of the court upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a crime o to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a crime. The implication of this is that, your personal liberty can be deprived of you is when it is necessary to bring you before a court upon reasonable suspicion of the police that you have committed a crime or to prevent you from committing a crime in the future.
· The fourth instance provided by the constitution where your personal liberty can be deprived is in a situation where the individual has not attained the age of18 years for the purposes of his education or his welfare. This particular situation should be properly explained. If you take a look around Nigeria one thing is very common there are under aged children everywhere hawking on the streets and not going to school. The reason may be poverty of their parents or guardians but the personal liberty of these kids can be restricted, if the government takes them in for the purposes of providing them with education and improving their welfare. That is why in developed countries of the world when kids are not being taken care of in a proper manner or that befits their station in life the government takes them in under a welfare scheme called Social services. In that case the personal liberty of the kids to live where they choose to live and stay with who they choose to stay with is greatly hindered.
Furthermore, the constitution envisages situation that might occur to those arrested and their personal liberty deprived resulting from any of the situation mentioned in the first to fourth instance above. Such people shall no continue to be kept in such detention for period’s longer than the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence.
In section 35, subsection 2, of the constitution states that every citizen of Nigeria arrested or detained shall have the right to keep silent or avoid answering any of the questions until further consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his choice.
Section 35, subsection 3, states that any person arrested or detained shall be informed in writing within 24 hours in a language he understands of the facts and grounds of his arrest. You should understand if you are arrested you should demand for the particulars of your arrest within twenty four hours or you should be released. Try and know this it is very important.
Section 35, subsection 4, states that any person who is arrested in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section (stated above), shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time and if he is not tried within a period of-
a. 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
b. Three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall ( 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 trials at a later date. What this implies is that if you are arrested upon reasonable suspicion of you having committed a crime or to prevent you from committing a crime, you shall be brought before a court of law within reasonable time and if you are not tried within a period of two months from the date of your arrest or detention in the situation where you are not entitled to bail, you shall be entitled to be released. But this is without prejudice to further action that might be brought against you for that criminal action for
Which you were arrested. The `B` part of it states that if you were arrested in accordance with sub section 1 c and you were granted bail and you have not been tried three months from the day of your arrest but you where granted bail during the three months you shall be released either unconditionally or upon conditions as are necessary to ensure your appearance at a latter day.
(5) In subsection (4) of this section the expression "reasonable time" means:
· in the case of an arrest or detention in any place where there is a court of competent jurisdiction within a fourty kilometers, a period of one day; 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.
(6) Any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person and in this subsection,"the appropriate authority or person" means an authority or person specified by law.
(7) Nothing in this section shall be construed:
· In relation to subsection (4) of this section, as applying in the case of a person arrested or detained upon reasonable suspicion of having committed a capital offence; and
· As invalidating any law by reason only that it authorises the detention for a period not exceeding three months of a member of the armed forces of the federation or a member of the nigerian police force in execution of a sentence imposed by an officer of the armed forces of the federation or of the Nigeria police force, in respect of an offence punishable by such detention of which he was found guilty.
Comments: For sub section 6 above, any person who is arrested unlawfully or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person and this appropriate authority means authority or person specified by law. This implication of this is that your wrongful arrest or detention is a breach of your fundamental human right to freedom of liberty hence, the arresting authority upon the understanding that you were arrested wrongfully would compensate you, and publicly offer an apology to you for the stress you have gone through.
The implication of sub section 7 above is to the effect that the provision of sub section 4 shall not apply to you if you have committed a capital offence(for example murder) and it furthers applies to members of the armed forces of the federation, most of them might be detained for committing crimes against the code of conduct of their calling and hence may be detained by orders of their superiors, hence if they are not tried within three months, the provisions of sub section 4 does not apply to them.s

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