There are erroneous ideas that have been bandied about for so long that they lose their untrue status and become acceptable as “truth” or “norm”. The level of acceptability becomes rife that those who are averse to these ideas are seen as the “other”, unconventional, or down-rightly branded as wrong. Unfortunately, some of these untruths which metamorphose, by constant mention, to “truths” are regurgitated from one generation to another. The vicious circle continues as those who are too lazy to properly make enquiries about the true position accept and accentuate falsehood.
A veritable example of the foregoing is the myth of women’s incompetence to stand surety for bail. Over the years, most Nigerians have come to believe and pass down the idea that women cannot be sureties. It is even more disheartening when this wrong is perpetuated by the law enforcement officers themselves. Those whose primary duty is to imbibe and enforce the law unfortunately transfer traditional patriarchal bias on gender differentiation to the interpretation of the law.
Obviously, this evil is perpetuated without recourse to Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution which unequivocally provides that:
(1) A Citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions.
(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. In view of the above, it is worrisome that the constitution which is our groundnorm (basic norm) is blatantly disregarded. Women are embarrassed daily and made to feel that “All men are equal but some are more equal than others”, even in this post-Beijing era.
A surety is just a person who guarantees by means of recognizance, the appearance in court or at a police station of an accused person admitted to bail. What the law only requires, by virtue of Section 122 of the Criminal Procedure Act (Applicable in the South) is for the surety to enter into recognisance to ensure the attendance of the accused person in court. A similar provision is stated in Section 345 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Applicable in the North) which enjoins a surety to execute a bond for the appearance of a person admitted to bail.
It is noteworthy to state that both Section 134 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 351 of the Criminal Procedure Code allow a surety to apply to discharge a recognizance or bond, either wholly or in so far as it applies to the applicant. On discharge of such recognizance or bond, the court shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the person on whose behalf the recognizance or bond was executed and require such person to find other surety or sureties. Also, by Section 143 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 355 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court is empowered to order the arrest of a person bound by any recognizance or bond if such person fails to appear before the court at a designated time.
In granting bail, the major interest of the court is in the appearance of the accused person at a certain day and place and not the sex of the surety. By Section 341 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the factors considered before granting bail are namely: the nature of the offence, the severity of the punishment, the criminal records of the accused (Eyu V State) and the likelihood of the accused committing other offences while on bail (R V Jammal). Other factors to be considered are: the likelihood of the accused interfering with the investigation of the offence (Dantata V Police), the probability of delay in the trial and most importantly, the likelihood of the accused jumping bail and not appearing in court.
Therefore, the sex of a surety is inconsequential as long as the purpose is achieved .
After due consideration of legal principles relating to bail and suretyship, one is left wondering about the basis for the exclusion of women. It is very surprising that even those who are supposed to have risen above such machismo are the very ones who discriminate against women and quickly point out their “position” to them.
Law enforcement agents who refuse women from standing surety for bail should note that they have no legal backing, or logical basis. Afterall, women have proved their mettle in all areas of human endeavour, no matter the stratum. Women are excelling even in fields hitherto considered the exclusive preserve of men. Therefore, being a woman does not translate into intellectual or economic inferiority. The two sexes are supposed to complement each other rather than seek areas of inequality.
It is heartwarming though that some law enforcement officers have risen above this baseless assumption and now allow women to surety bail. Those who are still fixated on this illegal discrimatory and retrogressive practice should have a rethink and tow the line of reason because women of impeccable integrity who possess the wherewithal to surety bail abound.